Oklahoma St Michigan St CBB

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Oklahoma State


Michigan State

March Madness



Michigan might be one of the last opponents that teams want to see in the Tourney right now, but Oklahoma State gets the first crack. The Wolverines won the Big Ten Tournament and have won 10 of their last 12 Games with the two losses both being on the road, one in overtime, the other a miraculous buzzer beater. The Cowboys were playing well before getting some tough competition to close the year and they’ve lost three straight. And so, Michigan climbed to being a -2.5 point favorite by Tuesday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

While OK State has lost three straight, it’s important to note that one of them came against Kansas and the other two against Iowa State. The Pokes had won 10 of their last 11 before that stretch and conveniently have the type of lineup to match what Michigan does. Both of these teams are led by great offenses with OK State No. 1 in the country in adjusted efficiency and Michigan at No. 5. Both shoot the three well and make free throws consistently. Maybe the biggest difference between them is that Michigan’s defense has turned into fairly good over the past month, while the Cowboys are still struggling somewhat, even if they’ve improved.

Looking at the matchups, the biggest thing for OK State is that it can guard DJ Wilson and Moritz Wagner, two bigs that can shoot. To start, they also have athletic bigs in Leyton Hammonds, Cameron McGriff and Mitchell Solomon. If those guys can defend the three-point line and in turn make Wilson and Wagner work on the other end, that would take away a big advantage for the Wolverines. Hammonds may be the key as he averages 8.0 points per Game on the year, but has hit double figures in five of the last eight Games including 18- and 21-point performances.

While that may be the most important matchup, the best to watch will be point guard between Derrick Walton (15.2 ppg, 4.7 reb, 4.7 ast) and Jawun Evans (19.0 ppg, 3.3 reb, 6.2 ast), two of the best at the position. Without these guys, these teams likely wouldn’t be in the Tournament. Walton has been huge down the stretch, while Evans has been good all season. Both are about the same size, but Walton is more of a shooter than Evans and that could play a role. Evans draws 6.6 fouls per 40 minutes (Walton at 4.6) and if he gets any of the Michigan guards into foul trouble, that would be huge. To go along with that, it’s not like Evans is a bad shooter as he’s hit plenty of big shots this season from deep.

As for the role players, it’ll be Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman against Phil Forte, Jeffrey Carroll and Davon Dillard. Irvin has been hitting his shot more, which could help, but Robinson is the main deep threat for the Wolverines, while Forte and Carroll fit that bill for the Pokes. These teams are extremely similar and that’s why the spread isn’t any larger despite how Michigan is playing. If the OK State bigs can defend Michigan’s beyond the perimeter, that will be key and if Evans can match whatever Walton does, this will be a tight Game. So in the end, it could come down to what role players step up above the rest.

Our Pick – Michigan -2.5