2 Michigan State vs. 15 Middle Tennessee State
Time: 1:45 PM CT (CBS)
Spread: MIST -17.5
Betting odds c/o CRIS
Michigan State finished the season 29-5 with a second place regular season finish in the Big Ten. It won the Big Ten title over the Purdue Boilermakers 66-62 and is a chic pick to take the NCAA tournament. It will open its schedule with No. 15 seeded Middle Tennessee State, and college basketball oddsmakers at CRIS are favoring the Spartans by 17.5 points in second round action Friday afternoon on CBS.
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Michigan State ended the season on a nine-game winning streak and is carrying that momentum into its No. 2 seeding in the Midwest Region bracket.
The Spartans were led by Denzel Valentine this season. The 6’5” senior guard led the team in scoring at 19.4 points per game while also contributing 7.6 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game. He was a major player last season for the Spartans but has really blossomed as a senior. Valentine averages 3.4 made threes per game while shooting a 44.7 percent clip from behind the arc. He had a near-triple-double in the win over Purdue to take the Conference title, with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He scored in double-figures in all but one game this season and played in all but four games. His experience is a big factor in why bracketeers seem to love MSU.
Bryn Forbes is Michigan State’s No. 2 option and he averages 14.4 points per game. The 6’3” guard transferred from Cleveland after the 2013-14 season, and he has become a major force for the Spartans this season. Forbes threw up a dud against Purdue, hitting just 2 of 8 from the floor for nine points and no rebounds.
Forbes has struggled since his 33 point game at Rutgers on Mar. 2, though. In that 97-66 drubbing of Rutgers he shot 11 of 18 from the field and 11 of 16 from three-point range, having an absolute monster of an evening shooting the ball.
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If Michigan State gets him to play like that, it is a tough team to knock off. The Spartans rolled through Ohio State in back-to-back games before knocking off then-No. 18 Maryland and then-No. 13 Purdue. Those quality wins speak to the poise of Tom Izzo’s team in big matches.
Six-foot-nine senior forward Matt Costello is also a big impact player in just 22 minutes per game, averaging 10.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in his senior season. He also blocks 1.2 shots per game while shooting 54.7 percent from the field. Costello has averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game over his past three contests and he has blossomed into a good role player in his four seasons at Michigan State. He had 15 points and 11 rebounds against Ohio State on Mar. 5 and 10 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Rutgers.
Middle Tennessee State finished 24-9 with the second best record in Conference USA, before winning the C-USA tournament title with a 55-53 win over Old Dominion. MTSU is led by Giddy Potts, a 6’2” sophomore guard who has increased his workload in a big way since his freshman season. He has upped his scoring average from 6.6 points a year ago to 15 a night, while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 50.3 percent from three-point range on 5.6 attempts per game. Potts finished the season by scoring 15 points per game over the final three games, including an 18 point, nine rebound effort against Charlotte on Mar. 10.
The Blue Raiders average 73 points per game as a team on 45.1 percent shooting and 38.6 percent marksmanship behind the arc.
However, MTSU is just 61.7 percent from the free throw line as a team, and that never bodes well for a team with little chance already given the 17.5 point spread. Reggie Upshaw is a beast inside for the Blue Raiders where he averages 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, but he is a big part of the free throw problem too given his 50 percent shooting at the stripe.