Michigan State vs. Minnesota: Who has the edge
The Detroit News’ Matt Charboneau breaks down Saturday’s Michigan State-Minnesota NCAA Tournament second-round game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa (7:45 p.m., CBS/WJR 760, WWJ 950).
The biggest difference in Minnesota from the first meeting is the play of its guards. Freshman Gabe Kalscheur scored 17 in the first game against Michigan State and had 24 in the win over Louisville while senior Dupree McBrayer is streaky, and while not a true point guard, can heat up and nail some big shots. But the big turnaround has come from junior Amir Coffey. He’s been on fire the past few weeks, scoring 18 in the win over Louisville, the seventh straight game he’s reached double figures. He scored 31 in a win over Northwestern and 32 when Minnesota knocked off Purdue in the final week of the regular season. He might not match that in this game, but he seems sure to do better than the four points he got the last time against the Spartans. Michigan State, of course, is led by the play of junior Cassius Winston, who was at his best again in the Spartans’ victory over Bradley, scoring 26 points and carrying the team when its offense got stuck in the mud. Senior Matt McQuaid hit two big second-half 3-pointers and will be tasked with containing Coffey while freshman wing Aaron Henry has battled through inconsistencies to make big plays in crunch time, as he did in the win over Bradley with a late jumper and two free throws.
Edge: Michigan State
Senior Jordan Murphy has been one of the most consistent players in the Big Ten throughout his career and earned first-team all-conference honors this season. He’s a rebounding machine who likes to play physical, a trait Michigan State’s big men are glad to be facing. Murphy scored 18 and grabbed six rebounds against Louisville but was bothered by back spasms, something that could be an issue against the Spartans. Freshman Daniel Oturu has shown flashes this season and played well in the first half against Michigan State in February. He’s a solid post scorer but hasn’t shown consistency late in the season. Michigan State might not start Nick Ward, but this is a matchup that could signal his return. He scored 22 in the last meeting and he matches up well with both Murphy and Oturu. Expect Xavier Tillman to also battle with Minnesota’s bigs while Kenny Goins is looking to get back on track after missing his last 11 3-pointers. He played only seven minutes in the first meeting after hurting his elbow, so he could provide a fresh look for Michigan State as it faces a Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament.
Edge: Michigan State
Much of Minnesota’s rotation depends on the status of 7-foot senior Matz Stockman, who has missed the last two games because of concussion symptoms. Minnesota coach Richard Pitino described Stockman as day-to-day, so that could lead to some heavy minutes for the Gophers' bigs. Junior Matt Hurt saw nine minutes against Louisville but didn’t record a point and had two rebounds. Sophomore guard Isaiah Washington drew regular minute early in the season but hasn’t played in six of the last seven games while senior Brock Stull will spell the backcourt for a handful of minutes. With Ward likely coming off the bench, that gives Michigan State a likely edge based on how the junior has fared in the past. Beyond that, the bench is nearly as thin for the Spartans as it is the Gophers. Freshman wing Gabe Brown could see his minutes continue to grow and made a 3-poitner against Bradley while freshman point guard Foster Loyer will give Winston a break here and there and is always a threat to make a few shots. Freshman forward Thomas Kithier provides frontcourt insurance if there is foul trouble.
Edge: Michigan State
The first meeting won’t have much bearing as Minnesota has found a bit of momentum over the past couple of weeks. The Gophers made 11 3-pointers to beat Louisville, something that is out of character for them. Michigan State likely feels like it has a chance to now get rolling after getting past Bradley. The Spartans have the confidence of knowing they’ve handled the Gophers already this season and an effective Nick Ward could be the key to sending Michigan State to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015. Michigan State 78, Minnesota 68