March Madness Pick
Many thought Michigan State should’ve been rewarded a No. 1 seed, but that doesn’t matter anymore. The Spartans have a clear road to the Final 4 and it may include Virginia once again, a team they beat the last two years. In addition, they have one of the best against-the-spread marks in college basketball. Before failing to cover in their last two wins in the Big Ten Tournament, MSU had a ridiculous stretch of 12-straight covers, something that could come into play here with a large spread.
Middle Tennessee scraped by the C-USA Tournament and didn’t even have to play the regular season winner UAB en route to the title. The closest the Blue Raiders came to playing someone of MSU’s quality this season was in Games against VCU, Auburn and South Dakota State. They took down Auburn, and lost the other two by single digits. While they were never really blown out this year, can you trust them against Michigan State if the Spartans get hot from deep?
Denzel Valentine could easily be the National Player of the Year and there’s no doubt Middle Tennessee hasn’t played anyone like him all year. The Blue Raiders have decent size across the board, but they lack a major presence in the paint. The 6-7 Reggie Upshaw leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per Game. They’ll likely use a mixture on Valentine, starting with Perrin Buford, who comes in at 6-6. While Valentine may not be considered athletic, he should have his way with this defense.
The same can be said for senior Matt Costello, who averaged a double-double in Big Ten play. Costello, surprisingly, is going to be one of the bigger players on the cOurt and MTSU will have to deal with both Costello and freshman Deyonta Davis. The Spartans love to crash the offensive boards and if they are allowed to do so, that could open up this Game even more.
Similar to Michigan State, Middle Tennessee also likes to shoot the ball. The unfortunate thing for the Blue Raiders is that it won’t be an advantage for them. They shoot a solid 38.6% as a team with eight guys that have made at least 10 3s, while the Spartans are at 43.5% as a team with less shooters, but two dominant ones. Bryn Forbes is coming off a bit of a slump in the Big Ten Tournament, having shot 4-of-17 in three Games, but betting on that to continue would be a mistake. He shot 50% from deep for the year and could easily find his groove in this Game.
It’s going to be a battle on the perimeter for MTSU, who not only have to deal with Valentine and Forbes, but also Eron Harris who is MSU’s best player at creating his own shot.
Then you throw in Michigan State’s defense, which is stout and one of the best in the country in defensive field goal percentage.
Giddy Potts is the man to watch for the Blue Raiders, who shot 50% from deep, to go with Buford who was at 41.7% himself. Those two will be relied on to have big Games. Otherwise, scoring may be hard to come by. Upshaw is a solid low-post player with 13.8 points per Game, but it’s not out of the question that he could have trouble against the Spartan bigs.
The only way for Middle Tennessee to cover would be to keep this Game low scoring. But will that be a possibility? Michigan State has too good of an inside-out Game to be slowed by a team like the Blue Raiders. Expect the Spartans to start off the Tourney with a big win.
Our Pick – Michigan State +18