Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Matt Charboneau preview Michigan State's game against Texas Tech in the Final Four. The Detroit News
The Detroit News’ Matt Charboneau breaks down Saturday’s Michigan State vs. Texas Tech Final Four game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (8:49 p.m., CBS/WJR 760).
Sophomore Jarrett Culver is enjoying a breakout season, earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors while also earning All-American recognition from the Associated Press, the NABC and the Sporting News. He’s averaging 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game and was named the West Region Most Outstanding Player after averaging 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assist per game. Culver is joined in the backcourt by senior Matt Mooney, who was named to the West Region all-tournament team. He scored 17 in the win over Gonzaga, while sophomore Davide Moretti drilled two crucial 3-pointers late in the win and is averaging 11.6 points a game this season.
Cassius Winston continues to lead the Spartans. He was named East Region Most Outstanding Player and this week added first-team All-America honors after scoring 20 points and handing out 10 assists in the win over Duke. He’s now averaging 18.9 points and 7.6 assists a game while senior Matt McQuaid continues to make big plays, hitting a spinning layup late in the victory over Duke while shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range. Freshman Aaron Henry has been enjoying a breakout tournament, scoring 20 in the win over LSU while averaging 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in four NCAA games.
Edge: Michigan State
Graduate transfer Tariq Owens offers a matchup problem for the Spartans. At 6-foot-10, the former St. John’s big man is blocking 2.4 shots a game while averaging 8.9 points and 5.8 rebounds. He blocked 179 shots in a year at Tennessee and two seasons at St. Johns and has blocked 88 this season for the Red Raiders. Senior center Norense Odiase has started 109 games in his career and recorded his first double-double of the season with a career-high 15 rebounds and a season-high 14 points in the second-round win over Buffalo.
Michigan State will counter with fifth-year senior Kenny Goins and sophomore Xavier Tillman, who have teamed to control the paint through four NCAA Tournament games. Goins continues to be a beast on the glass who continues to shoot despite some recent struggles. He’s just 12-for-46 from 3-point range in the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments, but his two makes against Duke might have been two of the biggest shots of the season for the Spartans. Tillman has taken off since jumping into the starting lineup. He’s scored in double figures in each of the four NCAA Tournament games and helped force Duke’s Zion Williamson to commit five turnovers.
Edge: Michigan State
The Red Raiders will play an eight-man rotation as Florida transfer Brandone Francis has played in all 36 games, averaging 6.1 points while shooting 33.1 percent from 3-point range and collecting 29 steals. Freshman Kyler Edwards plays nearly 18 minutes a game and can get things going from 3-point range, shooting 43.8 percent (28-for-64). Sophomore Deshawn Corprew also can make his share from long range while helping out on the glass for the Red Raiders.
Michigan State’s bench continues to be limited, but there’s little doubt they’ll be counting on 6-9 center Nick Ward to continue working toward the level he was at before breaking his hand in mid-February. The junior was slowed by foul trouble in the Duke game, but still contributed six points and five rebounds. He’ll likely get more of an opportunity against Texas Tech to score on the block if he can remain on the floor. Freshman Gabe Brown is the other player likely to see regular minutes off the bench. He doesn’t need to score 15 like he did against LSU, but hitting open jumpers and not being a liability on the defensive end will be the key for Brown. Freshman Foster Loyer could see a few early minutes to give Winston a break while freshman Thomas Kithier will get on the floor if the three big men get in foul trouble.
Michigan State's Aaron Henry, Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward talk about facing Texas Tech in the Final Four. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News