NCAA tourney preview: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 9 Michigan State
Before No. 9 Michigan State takes on No. 1 Kansas in the Midwest Region on Sunday night, BTN researcher Harold Shelton shares with you what the Spartans have working in their favor and working against them in their matchup vs. the Jayhawks.
Working in Michigan State’s favor:
- The Spartans are one of the most unselfish teams in the country, with nearly 66 percent of their buckets coming off of an assist, marking the second-highest percentage in the country.
- They defend very well, ranking 32nd nationally in efficiency, 26th in effective field goal percentage, plus they allow teams to make fewer than 44 percent of their 2-point attempts, which is 13th nationally.
- Miles Bridges: Has scored at least 14 points in each of his last 14 games and is averaging 18.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 39 percnt 3-pt shooting in that stretch. He has nine 20-point games this season. He had 18 points and 9 rebounds on 8-12 FG in his first tournament game against Miami.
- Nick Ward: When he stays on the floor, the Spartans are tough to beat. He’s averaging 17.7 PPG and 9.6 RPG while shooting 61 percent from the floor in his last seven games. He’s done so in just 22 minutes per game in that stretch. He had 19 points on 8-9 FG and seven rebounds against Miami.
- Tom Izzo is 47-18 in the NCAA Tournament. He is 14-10 as the lower seeded team, which is the most wins by any head coach as the lower-seeded team. He’s also 21-4 on the 2nd game of the weekend in the NCAA Tournament and he’s won four of his last five games against Bill Self.
- Kansas doesn’t shoot it well from the line, making just 67 percent of its attempts, which ranks 284th nationally.
- Kansas isn’t a great defensive rebounding team, allowing opponents to grab 30 percent of their misses, which ranks 220th nationally.
- Kansas has the tendency to let teams hang around. Despite going 16-2 in Big Ten 12 play, 11 of the Jayhawks’ wins came by seven points or fewer.
Working against Michigan State:
- The Spartans turn it over and don’t force turnovers, giving it away on nearly 21 percent of their possessions, which ranks 308th nationally, and they’re 313th nationally in forcing turnovers.
- They don’t shoot free throws well, making just 67 percent of their attempts, which ranks 285th nationally.
- There isn’t a lot of experience on this team, and it has shown throughout the season as the Spartans haven’t won consecutive games away from home all season.
- For as great as Tom Izzo has been in the tournament, he has struggled against 1 seeds in this spot. He is 21-4 in the 2nd game of a weekend but three of those losses have come against No. 1 seeds.
- Kansas is one of the best offensive teams in the country, shooting 40.6 perecnt from 3, which ranks 5th nationally. MSU is 138th in defending the 3. The Jayhawks are also seventh nationally in efficiency. If Kansas is in transition often, MSU will have big problems. The Jayhawks have the 13th best transition offense in the nation.
- Kansas does a good job crashing the offensive glass, grabbing more than 34 percent of their own misses, which ranks 32nd nationally.
- Kansas is good defensively, as well, ranking in the Top 30 in 2-point shooting (44.9 percent; 26th) and efficiency (28th). They are even better in transition, ranking 10th nationally.
- Frank Mason is probably the favorite for National Player of the Year. The 5’11” guard averages more than 20 points, with four rebounds and five assists per game. He’s shooting 49 percent from the floor and 48 percent from 3. He played against Michigan State twice in his career but struggled both times. He had a combined 24 points on 8-19 shooting from the floor while missing all four of his 3-point attempts.