This marks the sixteenth consecutive year that Michigan State has appeared in the NCAA tournament. They have appeared in the sweet 16 in four of the last five years. They are led by Coach Tom Izzo who has proven over the years to be one of the best (if not the best) coach in all of basketball. His teams always seem to take on his personality and match his fire and intensity on the sidelines with their play on the court. They are led by guard Keith Appling who is an all-around scorer who also leads the team in assists. He shoots a poor percentage from both in front of and beyond the 3 point line, however he has a knack for scoring in crucial situations. Freshman Gary Harris joins Appling in the starting unit and plays wise beyond his years. He is tough and exactly the type of player that Coach Izzo loves to have. On the inside is where the Spartans pound both the offensive and defensive backboards and they have a host of big bodies they can throw at an opponent featuring Adreian Payne who is a hard working forward with a long wing span that can also put the ball in the basket as he averaged double figures. Derrick Nix is a senior with experience in tournament games who can control the boards with his aggression alone.
Valpo is led by six foot seven senior Ryan Broekhoff who is a dual threat from both inside and out. He is a 43% three point shooter who also hits the boards for nearly 8 rebounds a game. Senior forward Kevin Van Wijk joins him on the frontline who shoots and incredible 65% from the field and is a strong interior player. They also have a coach who not only hit one of the most memorable shots in tournament history but in Bryce Drew that have a coach’s son who has been taught the game the right way from birth. His father Homer was known for making the most out of what he had to make his team successful. Both teams are a contrast in styles as the Spartans are not a typical Tom Izzo team in that they like to push the ball early and often. Valpo doesn’t necessarily play slow but they would not benefit from having long possessions as Michigan State loves rebounding and turning offense into defense.
The intriguing factor is the Michigan States front court will have to face a frontcourt of somewhat similar size and even better scoring potential. The Spartans were well under 500 against the spread this season so they don’t necessarily perform well as underdogs. While Michigan State should be able to come up with the victory, the combination of the Cinderella history of the coach and the Valpo program in general combined with their strong interior play make taking the points too hard to pass up.
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