Sunday, March 30, 2014
Time: 5:05PM ET
Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium
Records: Kentucky 27-10; Michigan 28-8
Kentucky stat leaders: Points – Julius Randle (15.1 ppg); Rebounds – Randle (10.7 rpg); Assists – Andrew Harrison (3.9 apg); Steals – Aaron Harrison (1.1 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Nik Stauskas (17.3 ppg); Rebounds – Jordan Morgan (5.0 rpg); Assists – Stauskas (3.3 apg); Steals – Caris LeVert (1.2 spg).
Current Streaks: Kentucky W3, Michigan W3
Point Spread: Kentucky -2
Prediction: This should be a heck of a basketball game. Both teams have tremendous talent that should play in the NBA and both teams are obviously playing at a high level. The loss of Willie Cauley-Stein will be big for Kentucky, but the Wildcats can still win without him. If Michigan is going to win, it is going to have to show a better defensive effort than it typically does. Kentucky has the athletes to get into a shootout with the Wolverines and win. Jordan Morgan will again play a key role, dealing with Julius Randle, who has been playing as well as anyone in the tournament. If Morgan continues to play as well as he has, I think Michigan wins. He has done a good job of keeping the bigger bodies out of the paint when they get the ball and making them work hard for their shots. Offensively, Michigan will need to continue to shoot well. I am not sure the Wolverines can continue to hit their 3-point shots like they have, but today is not a good day for that to change. I am not sure what to expect with Kentucky’s perimeter defense. They have the capability to defend well, but get too relaxed at times. I am going to pick Michigan to win, but to me, this game is a toss-up. I could see it coming down to the last shot, but I could also see each team winning by a lot if the other goes cold on offense. Hopefully we see a classic. Michigan 76, Kentucky 75
Time: 2:20PM ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Records: Connecticut 29-8; Michigan State 29-8
Connecticut stat leaders: Points – Shabazz Napier (17.9 ppg); Rebounds – Napier (5.9 rpg); Assists – Napier (4.9 apg); Steals – Napier (1.8 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Garry Harris (16.6 ppg); Rebounds – Branden Dawson (8.3 rpg); Assists – Keith Appling (4.5 apg); Steals – Harris (1.9 spg).
Current Streaks: Connecticut W3, Michigan State W6
Point Spread: Michigan State -5.5
Prediction: I like the Spartans in this one because MSU has the capability to slow down Napier with a concentrated defensive effort. I am sure most teams focus on Napier, but MSU actually has the athletes and depth to carry out the game plan. DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright can cause problems, but MSU should take the risk of having those two beat them as opposed to Napier. Napier is aggressive, but that just means that the Spartans need to make him earn his points. Give him a hard foul when he attacks or make him spend energy when dribbling around the perimeter. Tom Izzo is an old school coach and I am sure he is going to have a plan to slowly tire Napier out with physicality and energy. Offensively, Michigan State will feel be very happy to not see Virginia again on the other side, which should open up the offense. Transition opportunities will be there and I suspect Gary Harris will have a big game coming off a quite performance against Virginia. The reason State has been successful as of late is because of the play of Dawson and Payne, but today I see the game going to Harris. The Spartans just have more offensive weapons than UConn and I think that is the difference in the game. Michigan State 73, Connecticut 65
Friday, March 28, 2014
Time: 9:57PM ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Records: Michigan State 28-8; Virginia 30-6
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Garry Harris (16.9 ppg); Rebounds – Branden Dawson (8.3 rpg); Assists – Keith Appling (4.6 apg); Steals – Harris (1.9 spg).
Virginia stat leaders: Points – Malcolm Brogdon (12.6 ppg); Rebounds – Akil Mitchell (7.0 rpg); Assists – London Perrantes (3.8 apg); Steals – Brogdon (1.1 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State W5, Virginia W5
Point Spread: Michigan State -2
Prediction: This game should be interesting. There is no doubt it is likely to be a physical contest. Virginia brings in one of the best defenses in the country and Michigan State counters with one of the most talented offenses in the nation. On the flip side, Virginia is average on offense, and Michigan State lacks focus on defense at times. It will be important for MSU to match Virginia’s defensive intensity. The Spartans can win this game with defense. Virginia isn’t going to run wild on offense and light it up from 3-point land unless the Spartans allow them to. Strong defense can also lead to transition opportunities on offense, which will be the Spartans’ best chance to attack the Cavaliers’ defense. The refs could play a big role in this game. It is sure to be physical in the paint and MSU can’t afford to have Payne and Dawson get into foul trouble. Both have been key in the tournament run. I still feel strongly that a good offense will beat a good defense in college basketball. Obviously the offense has to shoot well, but I think MSU has such a variety of weapons that it will find the hot hand throughout the game. Virginia is going to have to have one of its best nights offensively to win this game, and I don’t see that happening. The Spartans should be mentally ready for this game and be able to win. Michigan State 70, Virginia 63