March Madness 2022: Michigan State vs. Davidson scouting report

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan State’s NCAA Tournament first-round matchup against Davidson.

NCAA Tournament

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Davidson

Tip-off: 9:40 p.m. Friday, Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, South Carolina

TV/radio: CBS/WJR 760

Records: Michigan State 22-12; Davidson 27-6

Line: Michigan State by 1.5 points

Predictions:Michigan State vs. Davidson

Davidson guard Hyunjung Lee is averaging 16 points and six rebounds a game.

Key matchup

MSU’S defense against Davidson's shooters

The numbers are impressive. The Wildcats are loaded with players who can shoot from long distance and enter the game ranked seventh in the country in 3-point shooting, making 38.6% of their attempts. Four of Davidson’s starters all shoot better than 40% from long range, led by former Spartan Foster Loyer, who is hitting 44.5% of the triples he takes.

From one through five, the Wildcats will shoot and make 3s, but with the constant movement on offense, they’ll backdoor cut opponents who sell out to defend the 3-point line. Six-foot-7 wing Hyunjung Lee is a dynamic scorer, while 6-10 post player Luka Brajkovic is the Atlantic 10 player of the year who will put pressure on Michigan State’s big men, Marcus Bingham Jr. and Julius Marble, with his array of moves near the basket along with his ability to extend the floor.

Michigan State was one of the best 3-point defenses in the country early in the season and still rank third in the Big Ten, so it’s not like this will totally overwhelm the Spartans. Iowa comes at you in waves like Davidson, and its offense is similar in some ways to Wisconsin. The Spartans have had varying success against each, but if they stay dialed in and control the defensive glass — Davidson is not an offensive rebounding threat — it might lead to points in transition.

But if Michigan State goes through lulls, makes mistakes too often and gives up open 3s, it could be a long night for the Spartans.

Wildcats to watch

Davidson guard Foster Loyer transferred from Michigan State.

Foster Loyer, G: The obvious name that Michigan State fans know all about. The former Spartan captain has found a new life with the Wildcats, quickly becoming a team captain and leading Davidson in scoring at 16.4 points a game as well as 3-point shooting at 44.5%. He missed four games toward the end of the season with a foot injury but scored 25 in a win over Dayton when he returned. It wasn’t a great Atlantic 10 tournament for Loyer, but you can bet he’ll be motivated to play his former team.

Hyunjung Lee, G/F: The 6-7 junior earned first-team All-Atlantic 10 honors and enters the matchup with Michigan State averaging 16 points and six rebounds a game. There’s not much guessing when it comes to what Lee wants to do. He’ll shoot and he’ll do it quickly and often. Lee is thinking shoot first, second and third and won’t hesitate to fire it from anywhere, especially long range, having taken 203 3-pointers this season. He’ll be a tough cover for the Spartans, and it will be interesting to see who gets the assignment with freshman Max Christie likely to check Lee often.

Luka Brajkovic, C: The 6-10 senior was the Player of the Year in the Atlantic 10, scoring 14.2 points and grabbing 7.2 rebounds. He’s an effective scorer around the basket but doesn’t compare to some of the top big men in the Big Ten that the Spartans have faced. However, he will stretch the floor, shooting better than 40% from 3-point range, and force Bingham and Marble to defend away from the basket.

Facts and figures

► Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is making his 24th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the longest active streak in the nation, tying him with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski for the most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances by a head coach. Izzo’s 24 tournament appearances rank 12th-most all-time and Izzo has had plenty of success in the opening game of the tournament, going 17-5 in the round of 64.

► The Wildcats went 3-3 against teams in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Davidson split the season series with Richmond, following a regular-season win by falling to the Spiders in the A10 Tournament Championship game. Davidson beat Delaware, who won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, and Alabama, who earned an at-large bid out of the SEC, while losing to San Francisco out of the West Coast Conference and New Mexico State out of the Western Athletic Conference.

► This is Davidson’s 15th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2018. The Wildcats have compiled an 8-15 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, with their most notable run coming as a No. 10 seed in 2008. Behind three-time NBA champion Steph Curry, Davidson advanced to the Midwest Regional Final before falling to eventual National Champion Kansas at Ford Field in Detroit.

► The last time Michigan State was a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament it made it all the way to the Final Four. In 2015, the Spartans got wins over Georgia, Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville before falling to Duke, 81-61, in the national semifinals. A win on Friday could set MSU up for another matchup with Duke in the second round. The Blue Devils are the No.2 seed and face No. 15 Cal State-Fullerton on Friday.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau