The majority of people have Michigan State advancing out of the East region and they liked what they saw from the Spartans in their first Game beating Delaware 93-78. However, even more impressive may have been the Harvard win, who never really let up on Cincinnati, leading for most of the Game. The opening line came out with the Spartans being -7 point favorites.
Even before the Tournament began, Tom Izzo cautioned that Harvard could be a dangerous team and now his squad will get to find out just how dangerous they are. Back when Tommy Amaker was the coach at Michigan, his teams went 3-7 against MSU.
While Michigan State has a complete roster, one thing the Crimson can’t let happen is allow Adreian Payne to dominate. He had 41 points and eight rebounds in the first Game, going 4-of-5 from long range. His ability to stretch the floor and back down defenders makes him a tough task for anyone. The Crimson don’t have great size and had some problems with Cincy’s Justin Jackson, but this will be a different test due to Payne’s shooting. Another problem with Payne is that he drew a ton of fouls in that first Game, so Kyle Casey and Steve Moundou-Missi will need to watch themselves.
Harvard had a bit of an offensive edge in that first Game, but that is unlikely to happen here. Siyani Chambers will matchup with Keith Appling, Wesley Saunders with Gary Harris and LAurent Rivard with Denzel Valentine, although the thing about the Spartans is that they can switch on all guys on the perimeter because they have such versatility. Even with Branden Dawson, he can switch out on a guy like Saunders.
The Crimson will need to play a better Game to win this one, but one thing Michigan State does is get into foul trouble. The Blue Hens took 39 free throws against them in the first Game, which is the main reason they stayed competitive. Chambers and Saunders will be the main players that can draw contact, but the guys down low also can’t get beat up.
Chambers shot just 2-for-10 against Cincy and that likely won’t happen again, but will anyone else step up? Rivard will need to hit his shots and Saunders can get his, but it may come down to the Harvard big men to have a chance in this Game. Moundou-Missi and Casey will have to hold their own against Payne, Dawson and Matt Costello.
As for the Spartans, they’re coming off a great shooting Game going 10-of-19 from long range and 23-of-25 (17-of-17 for Payne) from the free-throw line. If they have that same shooting touch, watch out. Whereas Harvard dealt with Sean Kilpatrick last Game, they’ll not only have to worry about Payne and Dawson, but leading scorer Gary Harris, who had a slow Game against Delaware. And when you throw in Appling, Valentine and Travis Trice from the bench, things get even more difficult.
Michigan State has the matchup advantage in most areas, but it’s not like Harvard doesn’t have the players to win this Game. The Crimson have a full roster with every level of player needed to beat a team like MSU. But can they? It’ll start on the defensive end where they are one of the best. It’ll be like playing Ohio State for the Spartans, but with a better offense.