Pick – Analysis
This Game presents an interesting scenario for a number of reasons. First off, Michigan State is favored by -2 points (at 5Dimes) as a 7-seed going against a 3-seed. The Spartans usually get plenty of backing come March, but after another Sweet 16 run, it seems that MSU is getting more backing than usual and that has to do with the media.
After Michigan State’s win against Virginia in the Round of 32, a number of national articles have come out naming Tom Izzo as the best, or one of the best Tournament coaches ever. Those are some high compliments that have turned a 7-seed into a favorite to reach the Final 4 out of the East region. You don’t see that everyday.
Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are kind of the opposite, having reached the Sweet 16 just once (with Blake Griffin) in the past 10 years. The matchup looks fairly even in this Game, but the support of Izzo has pushed the Spartans to favorites.
There’s no question Michigan State is playing its best basketball of the season, winning six of its last seven Games with the only loss coming in overtime to Wisconsin. Travis Trice and Branden Dawson have been excellent in the Tournament as they close out their collegiate careers.
Oklahoma has won Four of its last five Games, but it has been a little different for them. The Sooners let Albany hang around in the first Game and ended up winning by nine, and against Dayton, were down by nine points at one point in the second half before the Flyers kind of died out. They like to shoot themselves in the foot more often than not, and that’s one thing they can’t do against MSU.
Starting in the frontcOurt, the play of TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler will be vital to Oklahoma’s success. It’ll be interesting what the matchups will be, but Thomas will probably draw Dawson because he’s a tad more athletic than Spangler. With that, Spangler will get Matt Costello and Gavin SChilling. Thomas will have a size advantage over Dawson, but that doesn’t always mean everything. It could give Dawson some trouble offensively, but the matchup will be far from easy for Thomas on the offensive end. Dawson has picked up his Game in the last month, especially on the defensive end, and was even tasked to guard 7-footer Frank Kaminsky at one point.
The backcOurt battle will be just as fun with former high school teammates and Bahamas-buddies, Buddy Hield going against Tum Tum Nairn. The two probably won’t guard each other (Tum Tum will likely be on Jordan Woodard), but Michigan State switches on the perimeter so they will see plenty of one another. Both of these teams have shooters, but the nod goes to Michigan State.
Travis Trice has been on fire and he’s not even as good of shooter as Denzel Valentine or Bryn Forbes. All three of those guys can get hot. Buddy Hield shoots a bunch, but only at a 36% clip. Isaiah Cousins is their best shooter (45%) and will be guarded by Trice for the most part. That will leave Valentine to Hield, which should be a great matchup on both ends.
Michigan State’s defense played on another level against Virginia and if they bring the same kind of intensity to this Game, Oklahoma could be in trouble. The Sooners don’t have much depth and are a lazy team at times, but because of their skill level are in the Sweet 16.
Michigan State seems destined at this point, but if Oklahoma can get production from both Thomas and Spangler, this will be a tight Game because you know Hield and Cousins will get their due. Then you have to throw in Michigan State’s struggles at the free-throw line.
Expect a fast Game because both teams like to push the tempo. If the Spartans continue how they’ve been playing, it’s hard to see them losing. It’ll take a superior defensive performance from Oklahoma, which isn’t something the Sooners usually do.