TULSA (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Miami Hurricanes had a solid season inside a tough ACC and begins their run at a second straight Sweet 16 appearance with a tough challenge.
Indeed, it’s an intriguing 8-9 matchup in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament with No. 8 seed Miami of the Atlantic Coast Conference taking on No. 9 Michigan State of the Big Ten in a first-round game in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday.
Both teams come in having lost three of their last four after losing in the quarterfinals of their respective conference tournaments, though the Spartans have a long history of tournament success under coach Tom Izzo.
Miami is one of the better defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to 63.7 points per game, but the Hurricanes also struggle to score at times, failing to reach 65 points in their last six contests.
Senior guard Davon Reed averages 15 points to lead the offensive attack, with nearly half his baskets coming from 3-point range, while guard Ja’Quan Newton adds 13.4 points.
Michigan State had its share of growing pains as it relies on a quartet of freshmen, led by high-flying forward Miles Bridges, the team’s leading scorer (16.7 points) and rebounder (8.3 rebounds).
Forward Nick Ward is an undersized force inside (13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds) at 6-8, though both Bridges and Ward must avoid foul trouble because the Spartans’ frontcourt has very little depth.
TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT MIAMI (21-11): Coach Jim Larranaga is hoping his team will show some more passion for winning than they did in the ACC tournament loss to North Carolina, with the Hurricanes getting outhustled and outplayed by the Tar Heels from the start.
Larranaga had his share of success in the NCAAs, taking George Mason to the Final Four in 2006 (including a first-round win over the Spartans), so he can certainly motivate a team.
But Miami must play with much more passion against a Michigan State team that is hungry to make up for last year’s first-round loss or it could be a short stay in the Big Dance.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (19-14): A young lineup is giving Izzo fits this season, especially with the team’s penchant for turnovers, as Michigan State ranked next-to-last in the Big Ten in turnover margin at minus-3.2.
Against a solid defensive team like Miami, the Spartans are going to look to push the ball up the floor even more than they usually do, but if it only results in turnovers, it won’t help.
Point guards Cassius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn must make good decisions in the open floor, getting Michigan State easy baskets or the Miami defense could be the difference in this matchup.
- Miami ranked last in the ACC in assists per game (11.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9).
- Michigan State extended its Big Ten record with its 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
- Izzo has never had back-to-back teams lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans lost to Middle Tennessee State 90-81 in the first round last year.
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