(1) Michigan State vs. (16) LIU Brooklyn Preview
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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(1) Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans are a true testament to the saying that it’s not how you start but how you finish. They began the year unranked and dropped their first two games to Duke and North Carolina. They bounced back by going undefeated over the next two months and eventually grew into one of the premier teams in the country, winning the Big 10 tournament for the first time in 12 years. Spartans head coach Tom Izzo continues to prove that playing strong team defense is just as important, if not more so, than having NBA lottery-type talent. The Spartans give up just 57 points a night while holding their opponents to 37 percent shooting. Senior Draymond Green is their catalyst. The versatile forward is putting up 16 points, 10 rebounds and nearly four assists on average. He’s a threat to go off for a triple-double on any given night. The Spartans are young in the backcourt with sophomore Keith Appling and freshman Branden Dawson. Senior Brandon Wood has been a great addition, but the poise of the underclassmen could determine how far the Spartans go.
(16) LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
The Blackbirds are representing the Northeast Conference for the second-consecutive year after winning the regular season and conference tournament championships. They play as fast as anyone in the tournament. They score 81 a game and want to turn every contest into a shootout. They’re led by two 6’7 forwards in Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere, who combine to score 33 points and grab 17 rebounds a night. While fairly dependent on their starters, they do have a couple of reserves who can play extended minutes if needed. The Blackbirds solely look to out outscore their opponents as they are one of the worst defensive teams in the field. The 77 points they gave up a game was topped only by eight other teams in Division-I basketball. Their toughest game of the year was against Iona, who defeated them 108-84, so they are in for a major step up in competition. They are 0-4 in the tournament all-time. Winning their first game will require an inspired defensive effort and taking care of the basketball. The Blackbirds gave it up 16 times a game, which is far too often.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Michigan State. The Spartans are a championship contender, the Blackbirds will have a hard time scoring against their stout defense.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!