NCAA Tournament Round Table: Spartans Wire staff reviews MSU’s draw, matchup with USC, more

March Madness is officially upon us!

The NCAA Tournament opens tonight with a pair of First Four matchups in Dayton, Ohio, and there will be a few more tomorrow before the real fun begins on Thursday. Michigan State will take the court on Friday in Columbus, Ohio against No. 10 seed USC. Tip off is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. ET on Friday.

Before Michigan State takes the court in a few days, the Spartans Wire staff answered a handful of pressing questions surrounding the Spartans and others taking part in the NCAA Tournament. Check out our responses to those pressing questions below:

Initial thoughts on MSU's first round matchup and overall bracket draw?

Andrew Brewster: This is about as good of a first round match-up as MSU could have hoped for. The Spartans will just have to show that they can bring the energy on the perimeter defense to stop Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson, something they have struggled with this year, but I’d rather face good guards then a great big man, which has proven to be kryptonite for this team repeatedly.

Robert Bondy: I love this draw for the Spartans. USC is a beatable opening round matchup, and like the Spartans is very inconsistent. From there, Michigan State can beat anyone else in their path when they play at their highest potential. Whether the Spartans play to their ceiling is a big question, but they could definitely go on a deep run based on this draw should they play well in the tournament.

Cory Linsner: Many people are ecstatic about the USC draw, but I cannot go that far, I see it as a very ‘fair’ draw. This is a unique matchup that has some big pros and some big cons. USC not having a strong front court and not defending the 3-point line well are huge pros for MSU. As for cons, USC has a lot of length and will almost be taller at every position than MSU and that is something that really bugs the MSU guards, while overall USC gives me Iowa vibes and we know MSU has struggled to play strong defense in those matchups.

What does Michigan State need to do to beat USC and advance to second round?

Andrew Brewster:  I said it in the previous question: perimeter defense, perimeter defense, perimeter defense. And get yourself some easy buckets in the paint.

Robert Bondy: Hit their open looks from outside and defend the perimeter as Andrew said. The Trojans aren’t imposing in the paint and when it comes to rebounding, so this is a great matchup for the Spartans if they can do what they do best.

Cory Linsner: Defense wins championships. The Spartans will need to be strong on the perimeter, containing the Trojans fire power and limit second chance opportunities.

How far do you have Michigan State going in the NCAA Tournament?

Andrew Brewster: This is the question isn’t it… This group is very dangerous because of their shot-making ability, but extremely flawed due to their defense and lack of easy buckets in the paint. I would say Sweet Sixteen, but if they get some favorable match-ups along the way, the sky is the limit.

Robert Bondy: I think Michigan State could either lose in the first round or make it all the way to the Final Four. There is a wide margin for this team so I’ll split the difference and say Sweet 16.

Cory Linsner: I have answered this question every different possible way, and I still don’t know if I am completely sure of it. There is a path to an elite 8 for this MSU squad, but the flaws with this team won’t allow me to go through with that pick. Let go with the safe route, round of 32 exit.

Who do you have going the furthest in the NCAA Tournament from the Big Ten?

Andrew Brewster: Indiana because they are the most balanced.

Robert Bondy: The easy answer is Purdue but I don’t like the Boilermakers’ draw with challenging games from the second round on. So I’ll say Indiana here — but honestly wouldn’t be shocked if the Hoosiers go down in the opener against Kent State. Nothing will surprise me with the Big Ten teams this year.

Cory Linsner: Another question that can be answered 5 different ways and I wouldn’t disagree. Purdue’s struggles in March have been documented, while most of the Big Ten has a brutal slate to get to the second weekend. Give me Purdue, hesitantly.

Who do you have winning the National Championship?

Andrew Brewster: My gut says UCLA. This is a veteran group. Heck, a lot of these guys were on the team that knocked off MSU back in 2021. Jaime Jacquez is the type of guy who was made for tournament basketball and I think they can make another run.

Robert Bondy: Is this the most wide open NCAA Tournament ever? I’m not a college basketball historian so I’m not sure about that but I will say that I have no clue who will end up as the champion at the end. I’m going to go with the best team entering the dance and that’s Alabama — but I by no means feel great about this pick.

Cory Linsner: I was all in on Houston until the Marcus Sasser injury, but with his status unknown, I am going to pick Texas to cut down the nets. A team full of star power and veterans that can beat you in every possible way will be a very tough out in March. Not to mention a hometown advantage in the Final Four.

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Story originally appeared on Spartans Wire