K-State Wildcats vs. Michigan State Spartans: Sweet 16 game time, TV, odds, prediction
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Radio: KCSP (610 AM) in Kansas City, KKGQ (92.3 FM) in Wichita
Betting line: Michigan State 2
About No. 7 Michigan State (21-12):
The Spartans have emerged from a mediocre regular season and played some impressive basketball in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State advanced to the Sweet 16 with victories over USC and Marquette. This is a vintage Tom Izzo season, as he has a habit of winning games in March with teams that are rarely seeded all that high. The Spartans are excellent from three-point range and make 38.7% of their shots from beyond the arc as a team. Joey Hauser, Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard all average more than 12 points per game.
About No. 3 Kansas State (25-9):
The Wildcats are coming off a 75-69 victory over Kentucky and now find themselves as the highest seeded team remaining in the East Region. K-State has received excellent production out of both Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson in the NCAA Tournament. Nowell was arguably the top performer in the first two rounds, as he piled up a total of 44 points and 23 assists. This is a homecoming of sorts for four K-State players who grew up in New York — Tykei Greene, Ismael Massoud, Nae’Qwan Tomlin and Nowell.
This might be the most evenly matched game of the entire NCAA Tournament.
The Vegas oddsmakers have tabbed Michigan State as a slim favorite of two points, but that line may reflect the fact that the Spartans have more name recognition than the Wildcats and a more famous head coach.
A season worth of data paints a different picture.
Bart Torvik, a college basketball statistician, has this game pegged as a complete toss up with neither team favored. His projection calls for an exact tie, with both teams receiving a pregame win expectancy of 50%.
That makes this a difficult game to predict. But we’re not into flipping coins around here.
I give K-State a small edge in this scenario.
On paper, it is the more talented team and is coming off a much stronger regular season than Michigan State. The Wildcats have the hottest player in the country (Nowell) and one of the nation’s most consistent scorers (Johnson) on their roster.
Excellent guard play and a dynamic scoring duo is always hard to beat this time of year, even for a coach like Tom Izzo.
That doesn’t mean this will be an easy game for the Wildcats. Far from it. Few teams shoot better from three-point range than the Spartans. Forward Joey Hauser averages an insane 46.2% from beyond the arc. And Michigan State has a balanced defense that makes it hard for teams to score both inside and on the perimeter.
But those strengths aren’t weaknesses for the Wildcats. K-State defends the three-point line well and allows teams to shoot 29.7% from distance. It also features a balanced offense capable of scoring all over the floor.
If you roll out the balls and just let these two teams play, K-State will win more often than not. The X-Factor will be Izzo. He lives to win games in the NCAA Tournament and has been to the Final Four a whopping eight times.
He can throw coaching curve balls at Tang, who will be coaching in his first Sweet 16, that other people in the industry simply can’t.
If talent wins the day, K-State will advance to the Elite Eight. If this game comes down to a coaching chess match, Michigan State will be the one moving on.
That seems like a good scenario for the Wildcats. As Tang likes to say, K-State has got dudes.
K-State 70, Michigan State 67
Last game prediction: Kentucky 72, K-State 68 (Actual: K-State 75, Kentucky 69).
Season record: 23-11.
Season record against the spread: 17-17.