Who has the edge: Michigan State vs. Syracuse
Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game between Michigan State and Syracuse (2:40 p.m., CBS/760).
The Orange aren’t a deep team and that’s most evident in the backcourt as guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard played all 40 minutes in Friday’s victory over TCU. It’s par for the course as each is averaging better than 38 minutes a game this season, but they are also two of Syracuse’s most productive players. Battle, the sophomore and one-time Michigan commitment, entered the NCAA Tournament as the Orange’s leading scorer, averaging 19.7 points a game. Howard, a junior, is scoring 14.9 points a game while handing out 4.9 assists a game. Both can hit the 3 but would hardly be called marksmen as each will hover around 33 percent. Michigan State got a big lift in the victory over Bucknell from sophomore Joshua Langford, who was 7-for-8 in the first half and finished with 22 points. It was also a good game for sophomore Cassius Winston, who is still struggling with his shot but dished out 10 assists. If the Spartans can get a bit more from junior Matt McQuaid, it could be key an attacking the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Edge: Michigan State
Length has always been one of Syracuse’s strengths, and that’s the case again this season. Junior center Paschal Chukwu is 7-foot-2 and has blocked 91 shots this season while manning the middle of the zone with 6-8 Oshae Brissett, 6-9 Marek Dolezaj and 6-8 Matthew Moyer helping create havoc for opposing offenses. Brissett, a freshman, is the most dynamic of that group, averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds a game. Sophomore Miles Bridges took over for Michigan State in the win over Bucknell, scoring 29 points. How he attacks the zone will be interesting as forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will likely be in the middle of the zone and sophomore Nick Ward can still be effective scoring on the block. Freshman Xavier Tillman continues to emerge late in the season while senior Ben Carter could see an expanded role as the Spartans look for the best way to attack the zone. Edge: Michigan State
This will be a coaching matchup that is worthy of coming in the Final Four as Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo — both Hall of Famers — square off for just the second time in the NCAA Tournament. MSU won the last meeting in 2000 in a game played at The Palace on its way to a national title. The Spartans will be looking to follow the same path this season, though the Orange are once again being counted out after getting to this point after playing in the First Four early this week. It’s the same path they took to get to the Final Four in 2016. Edge: Even
There seems little doubt the 2-3 zone Syracuse plays will be an adjustment for Michigan State. It hasn’t seen it much this season, but that’s only half the battle. MSU is one of the nation’s best defensive teams and Syracuse is offensively challenged. It won’t be pretty, but expect the Spartans to find a way to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015. Michigan State 64, Syracuse 54
Michigan State vs. Syracuse
Tip-off: 2:40 p.m. Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
TV/radio: CBS/760 AM
Records: No. 3 seed Michigan State 30-4; No. 11 seed Syracuse 22-13
Next up: Winner advances to Sweet 16 in Omaha, Neb.