Michigan State is the team everyone is talking about. Even as a No. 4 seed, the majority of people have the Spartans reaching the Final 4, which you don’t see too often. Their first Game comes against Delaware, a team with plenty of experience against higher level squads. The Spartans are close to -14 point favorites in most places.
MSU started the season 18-1 and looked like one of the best teams in the nation. Injuries started to hit every position and the losses piled up. Healthy again in the Big Ten Tournament, the Spartans rolled through every opponent and looked like the team everyone expected them to be. They beat two 2-seeds in back-to-back Games (Wisconsin, Michigan), and were ahead by double digits for most of those contests. This is one of the scariest teams in the field and it shows in everyone’s Final 4 predictions.
The Blue Hens led the Colonial Conference all season long with a 14-2 record and 25-9 overall. They got to the Big Dance by beating Williams & Mary by just one point in the championship Game. This is a team that had Games at Richmond (69-71), Villanova (80-84) and Ohio State (64-76). While they lost all those Games, you can’t deny the fact that they battled in every Game, especially losing by only Four to Nova, a No. 2 seed.
One thing Delaware can do is score, as seen in their 79.5 points per Game (24th in nation) and three scorers that average at least 18 points per Game. Two others average at least 11 per Game. Of course, they don’t play teams of Michigan State’s caliber every day though. Their starting lineup plays right into the hands of MSU as they basically use Four guards, with three of them coming in at 6-2 and their technical power forward being just 6-6.
The 6-6 Davon Usher is their best three-point shooter and will draw the defense of Branden Dawson, usually the most athletic player on the cOurt in every Game. Dawson is not only bigger and stronger, but has the ability to defend on the perimeter while also recovering down low. Their other two leading scorers, Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt, will have one of their toughest matchups of the season having to go against Keith Appling and Gary Harris. Most may not know it, but both were two of the best defenders in the Big Ten.
The Blue Hens force fed their big man in their championship Game win, but will have trouble doing the same with Carl Baptiste against Adreian Payne and Matt Costello. While the other positions are a little more even, it’s hard to see Baptiste keeping up with Payne.
As for the Spartans on the offensive end, they are playing some of their best basketball of the season, scoring from all positions. That includes Dawson who averaged 15 points per Game in the Big Ten Tourney and was also the MVP of the Tourney. Dawson is going to be a handful for Delaware, who will be hard-pressed to play man against the bigger team.
Even so, Payne is going to be a monster problem down low and even behind the three-point line. To go with that, the Spartans love to run and Delaware used mostly a five-player lineup in their Tournament run. That may not work in this Game. And still, we haven’t even mentioned Gary Harris, who is a NBA lottery prospect and scores just over 17 per Game.
While the Blue Hens have the scorers to keep up, it could be a different story in this Game against Michigan State, who is playing at the top of their Game.