If you’re a fan of Michigan State men’s basketball, this should be your favorite time of year: NCAA Tournament time. As the picture above reads, Big 10 head coach of the year (media and coaches) Tom Izzo is indeed the king of March. With a 35-13 record in the tournament, one national title, another title game appearance and six Final Four berths, it’s not really an exaggeration, either. Factor in that while MSU is an elite program, they don’t often get the blue-chip recruits that UNC, Duke, Kansas or Kentucky often land, and it makes what Izzo has done in East Lansing even more impressive.
After losing their last two games of the regular season, MSU went on a nice run in the Big 10 tournament. They easily dispatched of Iowa by 17, and then defeated #12 Wisconsin in the semis and #7 Ohio St. in the final, 68-64. MSU was rewarded for their performance by the NCAA tournament selection committee with a #1 seed in the West Region, where they will play #16 seed Long Island University-Brooklyn, winners of an automatic tournament bid by winning the Northeastern Conference tournament. Big 10 player of the year (media and coaches) Draymond Green didn’t shoot well in the conference tournament, but still managed to average almost 12 rebounds and a little over 4 assists per game.\
For the nerdbirds (national statistical ranking in parentheses):
Scoring Offense: MSU – 72.1 ppg (75), LIU-Brooklyn – 81.9 ppg (2)
Scoring Defense: MSU – 59.1 ppg (16), LIU-Brooklyn – 77.3 ppg (330)
Field Goal Percentage: MSU – 47.6% (24), LIU-Brooklyn – 47.5% (26)
Field Goal Percentage Defense: MSU – 37.8% (2), LIU-Brooklyn – 44.5% (240)
Three Point Percentage: MSU – 36.5% (72), LIU-Brooklyn – 36.8% (64)
Three Point Percentage Defense: MSU – 29.2% (9), LIU-Brooklyn – 32.8% (107)
Rebound Margin: MSU – 8 (5), LIU-Brooklyn – 2.5 (88)
Assists Per Game: MSU – 15.3 (27), LIU-Brooklyn – 14.8 (41)
Assists Per Turnover Ratio: MSU – 1.18 (37), LIU-Brooklyn – .92 (204)
Scoring: MSU – Draymond Green (16.1 ppg), LIU-Brooklyn – Julian Boyd (17.4 ppg)
Rebounding: MSU – Draymond Green (10.4 rpg), LIU-Brooklyn – Julian Boyd (9.5 rpg)
Assists: MSU – Keith Appling (3.9 apg), LIU-Brooklyn – Jason Brickman (7.4 apg)
Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about LIU-Brooklyn. I was surprised to find out they have one of the nation’s most potent offenses, but wasn’t surprised to know that defensively, they’re pretty subpar. Julian Boyd is their Draymond Green, and I’m sure that if he has a big game, it will greatly improve their chances to be the first #16 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to advance to the round of 32.
However, even despite the loss of freshman standout guard Branden Dawson, this is still an Izzo-led team. Like years’ past, the Spartans need to win the first game, and Izzo and Co. will make sure they win the second. I don’t expect much of a fight from the Blackbirds of LIU-Brooklyn, especially if they find themselves down by a large margin early. Obviously, anything can happen and all LIU-Brooklyn needs is to be one point better than MSU at the end of regulation, but I think anyone outside of the Blackbirds/ fanbase would be hard-pressed to pick them over MSU in this game. Sparty on.