This time of year, everyone still alive in college basketball is good. Everyone still alive is talented and each of these teams are hot. There are no easy ones in the Final Four. Each team is dangerous.
I’m a huge numbers guy and several jump out at me as I peruse the Spartans-Raiders matchup which is set to take place on Saturday April 6th from beautiful US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Here are my thoughts on those numbers, complete with who I am picking to advance to Monday’s championship game.
2. This is the number of spots separating MSU and TTU on the final NET rankings of the year. These two squads are quite even on paper.
Coming in at 8th, Michigan State boasts a 28-6 regular season record. Wins over Purdue, Maryland, Wisconsin, and 3 wins against fellow 2-seed Michigan illustrate that Sparty is built for the big game.
HC Tom Izzo was able to lead his boys to a share of the B10 regular season title while then going on to grab his 6th B10 tourney championship.
At 10th in the NET, the Raiders of TTU sport a 26-6 record which was also good enough for a share of the Big 12 regular season crown. Tech boasts wins against Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas – proving the Raiders can also hang with the big boys.
These two teams appear to be neck and neck. Michigan State opened the week as 3-point favorites but heavy action on the Raiders’ side has driven the Bovada line down to MSU -2.5 (-115) / TTU +2.5 (-105).
Sparty is given a small edge here obviously, which I do agree with. I’ll explain more below.
0. This is how many teams were better than Texas Tech this year at defensive efficiency. Ask the Michigan Wolverines. When the Raiders lock down on defense it is extremely difficult to even get good shots up let alone score.
For comparison, Michigan State is no slouch on defense. The Spartans rank 16th in defensive efficiency, allowing a little over half a point more per possession than TTU.
Ignoring pace of play and looking strictly at points allowed per game, Texas Tech ranks 3rd in the nation – allowing 59. Sparty ranks 30th in this category – allowing a touch over 65.
How is the nation’s top defense an underdog to a team ranking 30th in that category? I believe the answer is simple. It has to do with the number 3 …
3. This is the number of times this year Michigan State beat the Raiders’ doppelganger – the Michigan Wolverines. Take a look at the similarities in the numbers between the Raiders and Wolverines.
|Defensive Efficiency||Opponent Shooting %||3 Point Shooting %||Rebounds per game|
Both play smothering defense and allow very few clean looks. Offensively, neither side shoots the lights out. Crashing the boards for second chance rebounds is not a priority in either system. The emphasis for TTU is always on getting back and stopping the transition game – something they have done a perfect job at thus far in the NCAA tourney.
Michigan State handled their in-state rivals pretty convincingly during the season. This shows me that Sparty is flexible and well-coached enough to make the necessary adjustments to beat any squad.
Forging their comradery and toughness in the gauntlet of the B10, Michigan State will begin this game with the confidence we would expect from the regular season and tournament winner of the nation’s top conference.
I feel picking the Spartans to reach the championship game is a great bet. I see Sparty jumping out to an early lead in this one. Tech will make a run at some point but beating Michigan State is easier said than done.
The Spartans will win 72-63.