MSU vs. Middle Tennessee: Contain Potts, Upshaw

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

The Detroit News’ Matt Charboneau breaks down Friday’s first-round game between No. 2 Michigan State and No. 15 Middle Tennessee at Scottrade Center (2:45, CBS/WJR).

Players to watch

Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee, So., G: The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder is a load — and also happens to be the best 3-point shooter in the nation (73-for-145, 50.3 percent). Potts missed some time late with a concussion, but returned for the Conference USA tournament and should be 100 percent.

Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tennessee, Jr., F: The Conference USA tournament MVP is the best all-around player for the Blue Raiders, averaging 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds. He can attack the rim, but like the rest of the Blue Raiders, is capable of stepping out and hitting 3-pointers (37.5 percent).

Bryn Forbes, Michigan State, Sr., G: The sharpshooter was the top 3-point shooter in the nation until struggling in the last four games. But Forbes has continued to get good looks while playing solid defense, meaning he’ll have plenty of time find a rhythm.

Matt Costello, Michigan State, Sr., C: The 6-foot-9 emotional leader will be tested on defense as Middle Tennessee likes to spread the floor and allow its frontcourt to play on the perimeter. Costello should, however, be able to take advantage on offense and give the Spartans a solid low-post scoring option.

Darnell Harris, Middle Tennessee, Sr. C: He has length at 6-foot-8 and will pull the Michigan State bigs away from the basket with his ability to step out and shoot. Harris is shooting 39.7 percent (54-for-136) from 3-point range and is averaging 11.6 points and four rebounds.

Spartans ready to do �whatever it takes� to win it all

Top story lines

No upsets: While a 16-seed never has beaten a No. 1, there have been seven 15 seeds upset 2s. Michigan State never has lost an opening game as a 2-seed.

Eye on the prize: Michigan State has won 13 of 14 and managed to avoid any letdowns by remaining focused on winning a title. Middle Tennessee presents some matchup problems, but getting past the Conference USA champion shouldn’t be an issue.

Long range: Michigan State has made a school-record 310 3-pointers, and at 43.4 percent is one of the best in the nation. But Middle Tennessee shoots well, too, making 260 and shooting 38.6 percent.

Deep bench: Getting the most from the role players will be vital, and the Spartans have been getting plenty from Alvin Ellis, Marvin Clark and Matt McQuaid. Lourawls Nairn Jr. could see some crucial time.

Stay fresh: Michigan State is in this for the long haul, and keeping Denzel Valentine from getting worn out will be important. The senior took a break this week during practice, and Nairn could relieve some pressure.

The coaches

Tom Izzo, Michigan State: Izzo is leading his team in its 19th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and has won 46 games and reached seven Final Fours, winning one title. He also is coming off his fifth Big Ten tournament championship and has won seven regular-season conference titles.

Kermit Davis, Middle Tennessee: In his 14th season with the Blue Raiders, Davis is in his second NCAA Tournament (2013). He had two previous appearances in the Tournament at Idaho (1989, 1990). Davis has won three conference titles at Middle Tennessee and a tournament championship.


Matt Charboneau: Michigan State is playing as well as any team and has won nine straight. Expect the Spartans to have a rather stress-free opener. Michigan State 85-65

Tony Paul: Michigan State has one goal — win the whole stinking thing. No offense to Middle Tennessee, but it’ll be just a footnote in the run to riches. Michigan State 89-55

John Niyo: Maybe Michigan State struggles to bust Middle Tennessee’s zone. But that seems unlikely, and so does even the threat of an upset. Michigan State 78-63

Bob Wojnowski: The Blue Raiders have shooters and play defense, and the Spartans might find it tedious for a while. But expect Bryn Forbes to rediscover his shooting touch, and Deyonta Davis to have an impact. Michigan State 79-60

Blue Raiders telling themselves: MSU �just another team�