Michigan State vs. Georgia: How they match up
Senior Travis Trice has been the spark for Michigan State down the stretch — averaging 17.6 points and 4.5 assists his last 11 games. Freshman PG Lourawls Nairn is a tenacious defender who can hit the occasional jumper, while junior Denzel Valentine does everything. Georgia sophomore J.J. Frazier has the ability to get rolling, evidenced by his 37-point performance in a victory at Mississippi State. Junior Kenny Gaines is averaging 11.6 points but is recovering from a foot sprain, and Charles Mann is a versatile junior who has scored more than 1,000 points during his career.
Senior Branden Dawson was a force for the Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. It capped a regular season when Dawson averaged nearly a double-double. Sophomore Gavin Schilling starts in the middle, but has taken a step back, and junior Matt Costello has been big off the bench and has at least one block in seven straight. Senior Marcus Thornton leads Georgia, averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, and 6-foot-8 Nemanja Djurisic is averaging 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds his last five games.
Michigan State has battled rotation issues but has seen its bench come up big in recent games behind freshman Marvin Clark and sophomore Alvin Ellis III, who scored a career-high 16 against Indiana in the regular-season finale. Bryn Forbes can be an instant scoring threat, and Colby Wollenman has provided solid minutes in the post. G Juwan Parker will be limited for Georgia with an Achilles injury, but Yante Maten (Bloomfield Hills) has had a solid first year and leads the team with 43 blocks. F Kenny Paul Geno has seen spot starting duty. F Cameron Forte will provide key minutes.
Edge: Michigan State
Michigan State's Tom Izzo is in his 18th straight NCAA Tournament, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Izzo is 13-4 in the first round, and hasn't lost an opening game since 2011. Georgia's Mark Fox is in his fifth Tournament overall, second with the Bulldogs. He was part of the Nevada staff in 2004 when it upset Michigan State, one of Izzo's four defeats in the opening game.
Edge: Michigan State
Michigan State's players agree winning the first game is the toughest, but the Spartans have been playing some of their best basketball in the past few weeks. The Bulldogs are playing well, too, but their depth is challenged by a couple of injuries. The styles likely will lead to a low-scoring game. Michigan State 67-59