NCAA Tournament East Region Preview: (4) Michigan State Spartans vs. (13) Delaware Blue Hens
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
The Michigan State Spartans may be one of the best teams to not earn a top-three seeding in recent memory. The Spartans finished ranked 11th in the AP poll and are a chic pick by many to be a Final Four team, if only because head coach Tom Izzo has one of the most impressive March Madness resumes in NCAA history. MSU finished the season 26-8 and had a 12-6 Big Ten record, and college basketball oddsmakers aren’t expecting the Spartans to have much trouble with Delaware, setting the line 14 points in favor of MSU.
Michigan State is a team with few weaknesses; it takes care of the ball, takes good shots and rebounds well. The Spartans ranked 31st among D-1 schools in field goal percentage (47.4 percent), which is even more impressive considering the strength of schedule. It defeated quality opponents all season and won 18 of its first 19 contests, with the lone loss coming to Oklahoma.
The Spartans faltered some in conference play, but closed out the season strong by winning the Big Ten tournament with a 69-55 win over No. 8 ranked Michigan. Adreian Payne scored 18 points in the game while also grabbing nine boards, and Branden Dawson and Gary Harris each chipped in 15 points.
Harris is a potential lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft and the 6’4″ sophomore combo guard led the team in scoring this season with 17.1 points per game. He sometimes lacks initiation on offense, but when Harris is involved and taking shots, MSU is at its best. Harris hasn’t had a big scoring game since back-to-back 20-plus point games against Purdue and Michigan in late February, but the Spartans don’t need him to explode to be effective. In fact, Michigan State is 7-3 when Harris scores more than 20, so it suggests that Izzo will seek a balanced attack, especially in later rounds against tougher competition.
Delaware finished the season 25-9 with a 14-2 record in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Needless to say, the Fighting Blue Hens faced a slew of JV-like opponents, and consequently the Blue Hens were able to out-run its competition and eventually earn a bid by winning the mid-major conference. Delaware averaged 79.5 points per game this season, but it should be noted the team shot just 44.6 percent from the floor in doing so. Moreover, despite scoring at such a torrid rate, the Blue Hens averaged just 10.9 assists per game, indicative of the fact the team lacks a half-court offense.
Simply looking at Delaware’s stats can be deceiving, and most aren’t being as bold as to pick the Blue Hens to upset a perennial March powerhouse. The Hens have three players averaging better than 18 points per game, but all shoot 45 percent or less from the floor and though Delaware committed just 10 turnovers per game during the season, it remains to be seen how well it can take care of the ball against much better defenses and competition.
DEL Trends: UNDER 12-3 in last 15 non-conf. games; UNDER 9-3 in lat 12 Thursday games.