By Greg Mengelt, CollegeHoops.Net
(1) Michigan State vs. (8) Saint Louis: West Region
Michigan State 28-7, 13-5 Big Ten (Regular-season and Conference Tournament Champions
Saint Louis 26-7, 12-4 A-10 (At large)
Time: 2:45 p.m. Sunday
Location: Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio
First round results
Michigan State def. Long Island, 89-67
Saint Louis def. Memphis, 61-54
Winner will face: (4) Louisville, Thursday in Phoenix
Michigan State No. 5 AP; No. 4 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Saint Louis No. 36 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Michigan State 3
Saint Louis 29
Line: Michigan State -6 (O/U 123)
Players to Watch
Michigan State: F Draymond Green, 6-7 Sr. (16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.6 apg); C Derrick Nix, 6-9 Jr. (7.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 55.6% FG); G Keith Appling, 6-1 So. (11.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.2 spg). Nix was huge off of the Spartan bench on Friday, going 8-for-13 in an 18-point, 8-rebound outing in the win. Five of Nix’s eight boards came on the offensive end and most came during MSU’s game-clinching second-half stretch run.
Saint Louis: F Brian Conklin, 6-6 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 53.3% FG); G Kwamain Mitchell, 5-10 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg); F Dwayne Evans, 6-5 So. (8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 46.4% FG). Mitchell, who was suspended for all of last season, was brilliant in his first NCAA appearance. He hit nine of his 14 field goal attempts, scored 22 points and had four rebounds, two assists and a steal in the win over Memphis.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Michigan State: After a slow first half, the Spartans dominated an athletic Long Island team Friday, outscoring the Blackbird 47-30. In the win, Michigan State dominated the boards, 42-19, including 15 offensive boards. Payne, Green and Nix combined for 27 rebounds, 12 of which were offensive. For the year, the Spartans are out-rebounding opponents by 8.5 per game, which ranks fifth in the nation. MSU held the Blackbirds to 22-of-50 shooting and that’s not a surprise. Opponents shoot just percent overall and 29.7 percent from the 3-point line against the Spartans this season.
Saint Louis: The Saint Louis defense was outstanding Friday against a Memphis team that was on fire. The Billikens controlled the pace, holding the Tigers to 54 points on 38.9 percent shooting, including 2-of-15 from the 3-point line. SLU out-rebounded the bigger Tigers 31-25. For the season, the Billikens hold their opponents to 41.1 percent from the field and 31.3 from the 3-point line. MSU will have a hard time getting anything from the perimeter.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Michigan State: With Branden Dawson out of the season with a knee injury, Michigan State’s bench is thin, aside from Nix. Only three players came off of the Spartan bench Friday (until the final four minutes), and two of them combine for combined for 6.1 points per game this season. Michigan State shoots 48 percent from the field this season but is not a great perimeter shooting team. Only 22.5 percent of the Spartan points come behind the 3-point line, so if they get behind, they are not capable of shooting their way back. And MSU has had some bad shooting game, including a recent 20-for-51 outing in a loss to Indiana.
Saint Louis: Saint Louis has a similar depth issue to Michigan State, and it could be more of an issue for the Billikens, since the Spartans are more rugged than Memphis. Only two Billiken reserves played more than four minutes and the bench combined for just 10 points, nine rebounds and two assists. While the Billikens were great on Friday, they did turn the ball over 16 times and forced just 11. SLU is usually careful with the ball, turning it over just over 11 times per game. The Bills out-rebound their opponents by just 1.7 boards per game, even after the great effort on the boards against Memphis. And Michigan State isn’t Memphis. They’ll have to keep the Spartans off of the boards to have a chance of advancing to the Sweet 16.
The Bottom Line: Another potential low scoring game, and since it is, six points is too many.
CollegeHoops.Net Pick: Michigan State 57, Saint Louis 53
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 216-165-6 (Through Friday, March 17)
Round of 32 Against the Spread: 19-12-1