Texas Tech (30-6) vs. Michigan State (32-6)
Game time: Saturday, April 6, 8:49 p.m. ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Where to watch: CBS
Spread: Michigan State -2.5
For the first time in school history, Texas Tech will play in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. On the biggest stage in Minneapolis, Chris Beard and the Red Raiders are set to face an experienced team with a veteran coach in Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans.
MSU ranked within the top 10 for most of the year, falling as low as 11th in mid-February and reaching as high as fifth in the final AP poll. The Spartans faced the 12th most difficult schedule in the country and suffered six losses, five of which were by five points or fewer. The team also claimed the Big Ten regular-season and conference tournament titles.
The Spartans’ Final Four opponent also topped the regular-season conference standings in the Big 12 but lost in the quarterfinal of the conference tournament to West Virginia. Since that 79-75 loss, Texas Tech has looked nearly unstoppable in the NCAA tournament. The Red Raiders defeated Northern Kentucky 72-57 while holding the Norse to 37.1 percent shooting from the field.
Against Buffalo, the fifth-best scoring offense in the nation, Texas Tech brought the Bulls’ shooting down to 36.5 percent from the field and kept them from scoring more than 58 points. Then, the Red Raiders surprised No. 2 Michigan with a 63-44 beatdown, in which Michigan only shot 32.7 percent from the field and scored a tournament-record-low 16 in the first half.
Gonzaga gave Texas Tech its closest game. With the help of Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti’s three-point shooting at the end of the game, the Red Raiders walked away with a 75-69 Elite Eight victory.
While defense is the Red Raiders’ forte, it doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage over Michigan State. The Spartans rank third in field-goal percentage defense, right behind Texas Tech at No. 2. Michigan State also averages the fourth-highest rebounding margin in college basketball at 9.5 per game.
On top of that, Michigan State is fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency. The team is led by point guard and Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston, who is shooting 40 percent from three. Xavier Tillman is also a key to the Spartans’ scoring and rebounding. He tallied 19 against Duke and averaged 8.5 rebounds over four games in the tournament.
Texas Tech’s counter is NBA prospect Jarrett Culver, along with Davide Moretti, who can pretty much hit any shot he takes. Tariq Owens is one of the country’s best shot-blockers: He swatted away five against Northern Kentucky, two against Michigan and three against Gonzaga.
The Red Raiders are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 NCAA Tournament games, 5-0 ATS in their last five vs. the Big Ten and 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games versus a team with a winning percentage above .600. The Spartans, meanwhile, are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 neutral-site games and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
Michigan State has the more well-rounded team and a coach who is very familiar with the Final Four. It was easy to doubt the Izzo of late, especially after the first-round loss to No. 15 Middle Tennessee in 2016 and two second-round losses since then. But, it’s safe to say, Izzo is finally back to his old form. The smart money is on Michigan State to cover the spread.
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