Plenty of college basketball fans and folks who get paid to analyze the game questioned why the NCAA tournament selection committee didn’t make Michigan State a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament.
By Friday afternoon, that debate seemed like ancient history and a bit ridiculous in the wake of the Spartans’ shocking 90-81 loss to Middle Tennessee, taking national player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine out of the tournament in the first round and ruining brackets galore.
It was the first time a No. 15 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed since 2013 when Florida Gulf Coast started its memorable run to the Sweet 16 by beating Georgetown, but the Hoyas weren't considered a favorite for the national title that season the way the Spartans were this season. It is the eighth time in history a No. 15 has beaten No. 2 in the tournament.
The Spartans (29-6) entered the tournament on a nine-game winning streak and hadn’t lost to an opponent outside the Big Ten conference all season. They were coming off a Big Ten tournament title and might have overlooked the Blue Raiders.
All five Middle Tennessee starters scored in double figures led by forward Reggie Upshaw, who scored 21 and had his way inside against Michigan State’s big men. The Blue Raiders won the game by knocking down 11 of 19 3-pointers and playing strong defense against Valentine and his teammates. Middle Tennessee went up 15-2 in the opening moments of the game and never trailed.
Giddy Potts, the nation's best 3-point shooter by percentage, scored 19 points and hit three of five shots from behind the arc. He came into the matchup as the only player in the nation who made more than 50 percent of his 3-point attempts this season (among those who had enough attempts to register in the NCAA statistics).
Valentine finished with 13 points and 12 assists in his final game as a Spartan.
Middle Tennessee earned the right to move on to a second-round matchup with No. 10 seed Syracuse and its famous 2-3 zone on Sunday. Potts' ability to shoot 3-pointers, Upshaw's muscle inside and the Blue Raiders' experience and poise make them a threat to advance to the Sweet 16.
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