Michigan State will take on Kansas Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament
Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s second-round between No. 1 Kansas (29-4) and No. 9 Michigan State (20-14).
The Jayhawks have the benefit of having one of the best point guards in the nation as senior Frank Mason III. A national player of the year candidate, Mason averages 20.8 points and 5.2 assists a game while shooting 48.4 percent from 3-point range. He’ll be all the Spartans can handle as the backcourt is the Jayhawks’ strength. Freshman Josh Jackson (Detroit Consortium) is one of the top wing players in the country and averages 16.4 points a game while Devonte Graham scores 13.2 and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. Michigan State will need to rely on both Lourawls Nairn and Cassius Winston to play well defensively while Winston is the catalyst on offense. Wings Joshua Langford and Matt McQuaid will need to continue to play well while an offensive outburst from Alvin Ellis could be a difference-maker. Edge: Kansas
Senior Landen Lucas is a solid post presence for the Jayhawks who scored 8.1 points and grabs 8.5 rebounds a game. He’ll be spelled by Carlton Bragg Jr. That’s about as deep as Kansas typically goes up front and that could be an advantage for Nick Ward, who is coming off a 19-point performance in the win over Miami and should get plenty of low-post touches while Miles Bridges will continue to be the focal point of the offense, whether he’s playing on the wing or posting up. Michigan State got solid minutes from Kenny Goins against Miami and will need to again to help keep Ward fresh. Edge: Michigan State.
The battle of the childhood friends is the one that will take center stage as Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Kansas’ Josh Jackson have been close for years and will match up often. Each has said they’re looking forward to talking trash after the game, a motivator that ranks behind winning but is still important. Aside from that, the Jayhawks are out to prove nothing can slow them down on their Final Four march while the Spartans will hope to prove they’re better than their No. 9 seeding. Edge: Even.
Michigan State played 30 minutes of its best basketball in the win over Miami and it will need nearly 40 minutes to get a win over Kansas. The matchup is fairly even, but the way the Jayhawks guards are playing it will be tough defensive job to contain them for the entire game. Michigan State will keep it a game into the second half, but in the end, Kansas will have too much firepower. Kansas 78, Michigan State 65