Memphis +5 1/2 (-105) and Michigan State -5 1/2 (-115)

One team coasted rather easily and the other had to watch a potential game winning shot sail long in order to advance to the third round. Memphis certainly did not coast. All looked well in the first half when they held a 15-point lead, however late in the game Memphis was ahead by 5 when Saint Mary’s Eivdas Petrulis banked in a three pointer with 3.1 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds pass the ball was deflected off Joe Jackson of Memphis giving Saint Mary’s a chance to win it. Matthew Dellavedova got a contested look from three but it was long and Memphis survived. This gave fourth year Memphis coach Josh Pastner his first NCAA tournament victory. Joe Jackson led the Tigers with 14 points and 7 assists. D.J Stephens was a monster all game long with an incredible 8 blocks to go along with his 9 points. Junior guard Chris Crawford was a terror on defense with 5 steals. While it is certain that they would have rather pulled away and won easily perhaps getting tested this early in the dance will prove to ultimately benefit the Tigers.

Michigan State did not have much to worry about throughout their 65-54 victory. They had a 17-point lead at the half and kept Valparaiso at bay the rest of the way. The Spartans were led by the tremendous effort of star Derrick Nix who went off for 23 points and a career high 15 rebounds. Coach Tom Izzo wasn’t happy that they weren’t able to extend their halftime lead however in the end all this tournament is about is moving on and advancing. Michigan State imposed its will Valpo much like they have on their opponents all season long. They are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and they present a host of wide, long-armed bodies that can cause havoc on the glass. They missed 32 shots last night and hauled in 20 offensive rebounds. They are a reflection of their tough, no nonsense coach who is one of the greatest of all time.

One of Memphis’s strengths is that they hold teams to one possession. They are a strong defensive rebounding team. This game may be decided on the glass where it will be a matter of which team can control the backboards. Neither team plays at a particularly fast pace so “second chance” points will be critical. Another key to look for will be the matchup of Jackson vs. the multitude of bodies that will be thrown in his path during the game. He is one of the best playmakers in the dance and if he is able to get into the lane and create shots for himself and/or teammates it will be a long night for the Spartans.

In the end it should be an entertaining as well as physical game. Both teams are well coached and play a similar style. In the end the superior toughness of Michigan State will be too much to overcome.

Ray's Free Pick: Take Michigan State –5 ½

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