NCAA March Madness Preview – Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State Spartans

Big Ten (19-14, 10-8)

 by Joel Welser

Coach Tom Izzo had to deal with a lot of injuries this season and Michigan State never really got going. Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling were out for the year before the season even began and that left the Spartans with very little experience in the frontcourt. And then Miles Bridges missed some time and senior Eron Harris suffered a knee injury in February and will miss the postseason. However, Coach Izzo is one of the best in the business for a reason and this is still a dangerous team.

Big Wins: 12/27 at Minnesota (75-74), 1/29 Michigan (70-62), 2/26 Wisconsin (84-74)

Bad Losses: 12/18 Northeastern (73-81), 1/7 vs Penn State (63-72), 1/21 at Indiana (75-82)

Coach: Tom Izzo

Why They Can Surprise:

Bridges has had a superb freshman campaign, averaging 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks. The 6-7, 230 pound wing is a matchup nightmare since he can consistently knock down the long ball and score inside. The frontcourt injuries paved the way for Nick Ward to get an opportunity to play as a freshman. And he certainly has taken full advantage of that opportunity. The 6-8 freshman averages 13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Bridges and Ward, along with reserve Kenny Goins, do not make this a typically dominating Michigan State team on the glass, but they are solid. And their shot blocking abilities have turned this into a pretty good defense that always has at least one shot blocker patrolling the paint.

Why They Can Disappoint:

This group has quite a few potential problems. They do not get to the free-throw line nearly enough for a team that wants to be physical. Nor do they force turnovers and get easy buckets the other way. But the biggest problem is the turnovers and the overall play of the backcourt. Lourawls Nairn and Cassius Winston can find their teammates effectively, but this team cannot afford to continue to commit 14.3 turnovers per game. The pressure is also on Alvin Ellis and Joshua Langford to help replace Harris. Both are very good shooters, but somebody needs to develop into a bigger scoring threat so the opposition cannot just focus on Bridges and Ward.

Probable Starters:

Lourawls Nairn, Junior, Guard, 3.7 ppg, 3.7 apg

Alvin Ellis, Senior, Guard, 6.5 ppg, 1.2 apg

Joshua Langford, Freshman, Guard, 6.6 ppg, 1.1 apg

Miles Bridges, Freshman, Guard, 16.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, 8.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Nick Ward, Freshman, Forward, 13.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Key Role Players:

Kenny Goins, Sophomore, Forward, 3.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg

Matt McQuaid, Sophomore, Guard, 5.4 ppg, 1.2 apg

Cassius Winston, Freshman, Guard, 6.7 ppg, 5.1 apg

Kyle Ahrens, Sophomore, Guard, 2.7 ppg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 72.0 (211th in nation, 11th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 69.1 (94, 8)

Field-Goal Percentage: 47.2 (45, 4)

Field-Goal Defense: 41.0 (42, 5)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.8 (130, 6)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.1 (49, 3)

Free-Throw Percentage: 66.3 (289, 12)

Rebound Margin: 3.2 (84, 5)

Assists Per Game: 17.1 (12, 3)

Turnovers Per Game: 14.3 (281, 13)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2016    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Middle Tennessee State

2015    NCAA Round of 64 win over Georgia

2015    NCAA Round of 32 win over Virginia

2015    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Oklahoma

2015    NCAA Regional Final win over Louisville

2015    NCAA National Semifinal loss to Duke

2014    NCAA Round of 64 win over Delaware

2014    NCAA Round of 32 win over Harvard

2014    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Virginia

2014    NCAA Regional Final loss to Connecticut

2013    NCAA Round of 64 win over Valparaiso

2013    NCAA Round of 32 win over Memphis

2013    NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Duke

2012    NCAA Round of 64 win over Long Island

2012    NCAA Round of 32 win over St. Louis

2012    NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Louisville

2011    NCAA Round of 64 loss to UCLA

2010    NCAA Round of 64 win over New Mexico State

2010    NCAA Round of 32 win over Maryland

2010    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Northern Iowa

2010    NCAA Regional Final win over Tennessee

2010    NCAA National Semifinal loss to Butler

2009    NCAA Round of 64 win over Robert Morris

2009    NCAA Round of 32 win over USC

2009    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Kansas

2009    NCAA Regional Final win over Louisville

2009    NCAA National Semifinal win over Connecticut

2009    NCAA National Final loss to North Carolina

2008    NCAA Round of 64 win over Temple

2008    NCAA Round of 32 win over Pittsburgh

2008    NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Memphis

2007    NCAA Round of 64 win over Marquette

2007    NCAA Round of 32 loss to North Carolina

*all team stats through 3/5

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