No. 8 Miami vs No. 9 Michigan State Preview
Where: Bank of Oklahoma Center – Tulsa, Oklahoma
When: Friday, March 17, 2017, 9:20 PM ET
TV Broadcast: TNT
Writer’s Prediction: Miami Hurricanes (-2.5)
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Betting on the Miami Hurricanes (-2.5)
Despite the loss of three key starters, Jim Larranaga still led the Miami Hurricanes to a 21-11 record this season. This will be their second straight tournament and third overall under Larranaga. They have reached the Sweet 16 in each of those first two trips to the Big Dance.
The Canes won’t come into the tourney in the best of form, though. They’ve gone 1-3 in their last four games, with all three losses coming against tournament teams (Virginia Tech, Florida State, and North Carolina in the conference tournament). They’re 11-9 (9-11 ATS) in their last 20 games overall.
However, they did beat UNC back in the regular season, and also had back-to-back wins over Virginia and Duke prior to their little skid.
Miami is a guard-oriented offense, with senior Davon Reed, junior Ja’Quan Newton, and freshman Bruce Brown making up 40 of the team’s 70 points per game. Brown, though, has NBA-caliber potential, and has saved his best scoring games for the elite competition (51 points in two games vs. UNC, and 25 vs. Duke).
Those guards will battle on defense as well. They are more than capable of putting a lot of pressure on the Spartans’ young and turnover-prone guards.
Betting on the Michigan State Spartans (+2.5)
This has been a down year for Tom Izzo and Michigan State as they’ve gone just 19-14. The last time they lost that many games was in the 2010-11 season, when they lost 15 and crashed out of the tournament in the second round. Of course, they also had a disastrous tourney last season, as they were upset by No. 15 Middle Tennessee in the first round.
Last year’s team was laden with veterans, but this year’s will have to rely heavily on freshmen. With senior Eron Harris gone due to a season-ending knee injury, the Spartans’ top four scorers are now all freshmen – Miles Bridges (16.7 PPG), Nick Ward (13.7), Cassius Winston, (6.7) and Joshua Langford (6.6).
However, they still have a couple of experienced vets in senior Alvin Ellis and junior Tum-Tum Nairn, and role players in Matt McQuaid, Matt Van Dyk and Kenny Goins who can get things done off the bench.
When the Spartans are on, they can be very dangerous. Bridges is a lottery-bound NBA talent who can explode at any time, and Ward is a capable interior presence who can find success against a Miami frontcourt that doesn’t have a ton of experience.
But this is a young team that’s susceptible to inconsistency and mistakes – they’re averaging 14.2 turnovers per game, 278th in the nation – so despite Izzo’s coaching brilliance, they are a lot riskier to trust.
Miami (-2.5) sends Michigan State crashing out of the first round in back-to-back years with a 68-62 win.
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