John Niyo, Matt Charboneau and James Hawkins talk Big Ten title game and NCAA bids for Michigan State, Michigan. The Detroit News
Matt Charboneau, James Hawkins, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski predict how the Spartans will do in this year's NCAA Tournament, which starts Thursday against Bradley (2:45/CBS,760).
Matt Charboneau: Despite a couple of conference championships and more Quadrant 1 victories (13) than any team in the nation, Michigan State was the No. 6 overall seed in the tournament and placed in the East Region with No. 1 overall seed Duke, a team that happens to be 12-1 against Spartans coach Tom Izzo. Before Michigan State would face the Blue Devils, the Spartans willl have to first get out of the opening weekend, something they haven't hasn’t done in three years. The Spartans will likely get past Bradley in the first round before seeing a familiar foe in Round 2 — either No. 7 Louisville or No. 10 Minnesota. The Spartans rolled the Golden Gophers but lost in overtime at Louisville. But Michigan State is a better team now, and getting to the Sweet 16 is a solid bet. A potential matchup with LSU there or against Maryland in its backyard of Washington D.C., won’t be easy, but Michigan State should get to the regional final where Duke will likely await. Izzo’s only win over the Blue Devils was in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, so it’s not crazy to think the Spartans can win. But odds say Michigan State will head home a game shy of the Final Four, a victim of a brutal draw from the tournament committee.
James Hawkins: The Spartans swept both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles and proved they’re the best team in arguably the deepest and toughest conference in the nation. That’s the good news. The bad news is Michigan State didn’t get rewarded for it in its bracket. Still, the Spartans should be able to dispatch Bradley and avenge their loss to Louisville to get out of the first weekend before topping Maryland in the Sweet 16. The good times will eventually end in the Elite Eight when Michigan State runs into top-seeded Duke.
John Niyo: Michigan State fans are fuming about their draw, and understandably so with No. 1 overall seed Duke looming on the horizon. But getting past the first weekend is the more immediate goal, and I'll pencil the Spartans in for an Elite Eight appearance. Bradley's no Loyola-Chicago, and the Louisville-Minnesota winner will be a familiar foe for the Spartans on a short turnaround. That Sweet 16 matchup might not be so daunting, either, especially with No. 3 seed LSU a mess right now. I just have a hard time seeing anybody beating the Blue Devils with Zion Williamson in the lineup.
Bob Wojnowski: The Spartans’ tough draw as a 2 seed is the most-baffling slot in the entire bracket. The worst part is being in the East with No. 1 Duke. But even the first two matchups aren’t gimmes. Bradley has been hot and won its tournament, and Louisville is sitting there as a 7 seed, having beaten Michigan State early in the season, 82-78 in overtime. Tom Izzo has a fierce, tough-minded group, and Cassius Winston is incredible. The Spartans will get to the Sweet 16, but Duke remains too imposing, and will beat them in the Elite Eight.
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Bradley
When: Thursday, 2:45 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
TV/radio: CBS/WJR 760
Records: Michigan State 28-6, Bradley 20-14
Next up: Winner faces winner between No. 7 Louisville and No. 10 Minnesota