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The Detroit News’ Matt Charboneau breaks down Thursday’s Michigan State-Bradley NCAA Tournament first-round game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa (2:45 p.m., CBS/WJR 760).

Backcourt

The Braves start three guards, led by junior Darrell Brown, who earned second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors after averaging 14.7 points and three assists. Brown shoots better than 43 percent from 3-point range and has led the team in scoring in each of his three seasons. He is joined by senior Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and senior Luqman Lundy. Lundy has started the last 19 games and scored 11 points in less than five minutes in the MVC title game against Northern Iowa while Lautier-Ogunleye scores 8.6 points and grabs 5.4 rebounds a game.

Michigan State has been led the entire season by Cassius Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year, as well as senior Matt McQuaid, who has come on toward the end of the season, scoring a career-high 27 in the conference tournament title game against Michigan. Winston handed out 11 assists in that game and hit the winning basket in the final seconds while McQuaid buried a career-best seven 3-pointers. Freshman Aaron Henry rounds out Michigan State’s guards and is coming off a solid Big Ten tournament as his confidence continues to grow.

Edge: Michigan State

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Michigan State's Kenny Goins, Matt McQuaid, Cassius Winston, and Xavier Tillman talk about facing Bradley in the NCAA Tournament. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

Frontcourt

Six-foot-7 sophomore Elijah Childs was named the MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, scoring 16 points and blocking three shots in the championship game against Northern Iowa. He earned third-team All-MVC honors and was named to the MVC’s most improved team. Freshman Luuk van Bree has started the last 16 games, helping the Braves go 12-4 in that stretch. At 6-9, he can step out and hit the 3-pointer, going 26-for-74, but has gone 0-for-8 over the last three games.

Michigan State sophomore Xavier Tillman has blossomed since entering the starting lineup in place of the injured Nick Ward. He scored 17 points in the regular-season finale against Michigan and has scored in double figures in six of the last eight games. Fifth-year senior Kenny Goins has been one of the Spartans’ most consistent players, leading the team in rebounding (8.9) while shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range, including 41.4 in Big Ten games while playing 34 or more minutes in each of the last four games.

Edge: Michigan State

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Bench

Junior guard Nate Kennell was named the Missouri Valley Conference Sixth Man of the Year, shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range while playing nearly 28 minutes a game. He scored 19 in the win over Loyola-Chicago in the MVC semifinals and was named to the all-tournament team. Freshman wing Ja’Shon Henry is a versatile player off the bench while 6-11 junior center Koch Bar has blocked 29 shots this season.

Michigan State’s depth took a hit with the loss of junior wing Kyle Ahrens, who injured his left ankle against Michigan on Sunday, but the Spartans still have weapons on the bench. Ward returned in the Big Ten tournament and will continue to see his minutes increase while freshman Foster Loyer had a bit of a breakthrough in Chicago. Freshman Thomas Kithier has been solid in his spot minutes in the frontcourt while freshman Gabe Brown could start to see regular minutes with the loss of Ahrens.

Edge: Michigan State

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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about facing Bradley in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

Prediction

Bradley can make 3-pointers, which is often an ingredient to an early upset. However, the Braves were a .500 team in the Missouri Valley that got on a roll in the conference tournament. They don’t have the size or athleticism to match up with Michigan State as this could be a game Ward fully integrates back into the rotation, helping the Spartans advance fairly easily and start looking toward Saturday. Michigan State 77, Bradley 60

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

 

 

 

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