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The Spartans and the Golden Eagles each won comfortably in Friday, March 18 games. In a day of countless and historical college basketball upsets in the NCAA Tournament, these two higher-seeded teams took care of business. The entire sports world is tuning in to the NCAA Tournament; this game has all the makings of another potential upset, with legendary Michigan State coach Tom Izzo leading the Spartans. There is a reason the Golden Eagles are the favorites.
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The Golden Eagles and Shaka Smart are one of the hottest teams in the country, having come off winning the Big East Tournament and cruising in their first game over Vermont, winning 78-61. In fact, Marquette has not lost a game since losing a rivalry game at Uconn on Feb. 7 and looks to extend their win streak deep into the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles have not made an elite eight since 2013, with their last Final Four appearance coming in 2003.
Marquette is pretty diverse scoring the basketball, with four players averaging double figures and the 15th-best scoring offense in the country. Marquette's been very healthy, and they are as healthy as any team in the country. That has helped lead to much of their success this season.
The average fan may not appreciate his stats, but opponents know just how good Marquette star point guard Tyler Kolek is. Kolek who was named Big East player of the year and is the consummate leader for the Golden Eagles. Averaging 13.3 ppg and 7.7 assists, Kolek always has Marquette in the right spots. The Golden Eagles go as Kolek goes, as the entire team feeds off his play and leadership. The other star guard for Marquette is Kam Jones, who is an instant offense type of guy but is a streaky shooter. When he shoots it well, Marquette usually wins. In four out of six losses this season, Jones shot worse than 30% from three.
As a team, Marquette is all about the offense, ranking 15th in total points and is the 7th best team in Kenpoms adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. The area where Marquette can be vulnerable at times is defensively. The Golden Eagles are 176th in points allowed, and the one common theme in all their losses this season was giving up a ton of points. Marquette's last four losses saw their opponent score 80 or more points in each game.
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The Michigan State Spartans have had a very up-and-down season with some huge wins and some very disappointing losses. The Spartans have the feel of a team some nights that are National Championship caliber, and some nights Michigan State has looked like they don't belong in the NCAA Tournament. One big reason for that has been injuries, as both Malik Hall and Jaden Akins have missed handfuls of games this season. Freshman third-string center Carson Cooper also missed time at the end of the season with a sprained ankle.
Cooper hadn’t played double-digit minutes since January but gave the Spartans 13 huge minutes in their first-round game. Cooper had 6 points and 4 rebounds and played the best defense of any Spartan center. That has been a theme for Michigan State this season. It seems like on any given night, someone for Spartans steps up and could provide a big impact. Cooper may not be a future NBA guy after his first-round performance, but if his form stays, it could be big for the Spartans. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told the AP after the game that Cooper, height-wise is MSU's biggest player, and sometimes that helps in particular matchups.
Michigan State is led by seniors Tyson Walker and Joey Hauser scoring-wise but has as many as five players that could have a 20-point performance on any given night. The biggest key to the Spartans, though, has to be junior point guard A.J. Hoggard, who is averaging 12.5 ppg and 6 apg. Simply put, when Hoggard plays well, the Spartans win; when he doesn’t, it’s about fifty-fifty.
As a team, it is hard to decipher the Spartans’ identity because of players missing so much time. If there is one thing that is true about Michigan State, it is that the Spartans live and die by the three. The Spartans overall are excellent from three-point range, ranking 4th in the nation, shooting 39.52% from three. Michigan State, on any given night, can outshoot their opponent to a win.
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Lines vary from Marquette -2.5 to -3.5 at online sportsbooks, with the point total being 141.5 points for almost every sports betting app and site. With the line opening close to 3.5 points, and I doubt this competition gets to a 0 ATS. Still, with bettors coming in on the Spartans' side pretty early on the line, early anything is possible, and expect the spread amount and moneyline to keep creeping down.
Marquette ATS Record: 22-12-1
Michigan State ATS Record: 16-16
Record ATS can be slightly deceiving, though, as the Spartans have been without several key players for long stretches this season.
The headlines for the East region are all about the upsets at the top of the bracket, meaning any of the underdogs left in the field could find their way to the Final Four. Fans in West Lafayette, Ind., were stunned watching Zach Edey and Purdue lose. That, along with Florida Atlantic winning at the buzzer over Memphis, it shows any team can win any game at this point.
To come away with a victory, pay attention to four keys that could change this game for either team:
Marquette’s Tyler Kolek vs Michigan State’s A.J. Hoggard. If either player decisively wins the matchup or, say, one struggles with turnovers against one another, expect their team to win. It will also be important in this matchup to see if either player puts up a big number scoring wise. While both players have scoring ability, they are each pass first, but each often find themselves having to score late in the second half of games. Looking at Koleks and Hoggard's second half scoring differential could be a key indicator.
The rebounding battle, as second chance points or limiting an opponent's second chance points, could play a large role in this game. While they likely won't be the leading scorers, players like Mady Sissoko for the Spartans, along with Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Oso Ighodaro, need to do their jobs on the boards. Sometimes the college basketball game can be made too complicated, but fundamental things grabbing the ball in a man on man situation for a rebound, can win or lose teams a game.
Marquette’s three points defense against Michigan State’s three-point offense. Michigan State looked like the Golden State Warriors from beyond the arc in their last four games of the regular season shooting over 50% on three-pointers. Facing the Spartans will be a big test for a weak Marquette three point defense.
Coaching is massive, especially in a two day turnaround, and the Spartans have the advantage in this area. Both coaches in this matchup are solid, Shaka Smart is a good coach, but Michigan State's Tom Izzo has seen everything a man can see in a coaching career. He is a legend in college basketball history and has more experience than maybe any coach in the tournament. Izzo is getting up there in age, and if he has one item left on his coaching life bucket list, it is another national title.
Michigan State comes away with the win, as I expect Hoggard and Kolek to play fairly evenly. If we had to give one team an edge in rebounding, it might go to the Spartans, but only slightly. The biggest key ends up being three points shooting, where Michigan State is the fourth-best team in the country, shooting the three, and Marquette’s three-point defense ranks 268th in the country. That is among the worst of any NCAA Tournament team.
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Location: The Columbus, Ohio venue, Nationwide Arena
Game Time & Date: March 19 at 5:15 pm EST
TV Network: CBS
Streaming: NCAA March Madness Live
The Big East is 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament, and the Big Ten is 4-3 up to this point. Here is a look at each team and how each conference has performed, along with an idea of what to expect and what's next for each team.
1st Round: Beat Kennesaw State 72-67
2nd Round: Plays Pittsburgh Mar. 19
1st Round: Beat Iona 87-63
2nd Round: Plays Saint Marys Mar. 19
1st Round: Beat NC State 72-63
2nd Round: Plays Baylor Mar. 19
1st Round: Lost to Kentucky 61-53
1st Round: Lost to Fairleigh Dickinson 63-58
1st Round: Beat Kent State 71-60
2nd Round: Plays Miami Mar. 19
1st Round: Beat Boise State 75-67
2nd Round: Plays UCLA Mar. 18
1st Round: Beat West Virginia 67-65
2nd Round: Plays Alabama Mar. 18
1st Round: Lost to Auburn 83-75
1st Round: Lost to Arkansas 73-63
1st Round: Beat Texas A&M 76-59
2nd Round: Plays Texas Mar. 18
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I am a huge sports fan; locally, many know me as the guy who does the PA for our high school football team on Friday nights. Having grown up in Michigan, I am a sports fan of all the Detroit teams, and at the college level, I love Michigan State sports.More info on Caleb Tallman
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