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Tony Paul of The Detroit News breaks down Bradley, Michigan State's first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament.

Nickname: Braves

Location: Peoria, Ill.

Conference: Missouri Valley

Record: 20-14, 9-9

Coach: Brian Wardle (4th season; 58-74 at Bradley, 153-139 overall)

How they got in: Automatic bid by winning Missouri Valley tournament

Five Bradley facts

►What an unlikely champion. Bradley scored just 15 points in the first half of the championship game against Northern Iowa, and trailed by 18 in the second half before rallying for a 57-54 victory. It's the Braves' first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, when they made the Sweet 16.

NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET

►Junior guard Darrell Brown leads Bradley at 14.7 points per game, while sophomore forward Elijah Childs averages 12.2 and 7.8 rebounds.

►Bradley is, statistically, one of the weakest tournament teams, ranking 165 in the KenPom rankings. For context, that's behind two of Michigan's mid-major teams, Central Michigan (123) and Eastern Michigan (155). In the NET rankings, Bradley is No. 176.

►You have to go back a little ways since Bradley was a basketball power -- back to the 1950s, when it made the Final Four in 1950 and 1954, and advanced to the championship game (losing) both years.

►Bradley and Michigan State have met four times, all in early season nonconference play, with the Spartans winning all four times — 89-87 in 1969, 82-53 in 2006, 66-61 in 2007 and 75-59 in 2008.

Two bonus facts

►Bradley made headlines for the wrong reasons this week, when it publicly restricted access to a longtime beat writer of the Braves. Social media blew up, and Bradley officials, including the school president, apologized Saturday and reinstated the access.

►Notable alumni include the late baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett; Lyall Smith, a long-time sports editor at the Detroit Free Press who went on to work for the Lions; actor Neil Flynn of "Scrubs" and "The Middle" fame; and legendary Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse.

East Region

NO. 2 MICHIGAN STATE VS. NO. 15 BRADLEY

When: Thursday, 2:45 p.m. 

Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa

TV/radio: CBS/760

Records: Michigan State 28-6; Bradley 20-14

Next up: Winner faces winner between No. 7 Louisville and No. 10 Minnesota

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

 

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