Miles Bridges and the Spartans look to avoid the upset bug against the streaking Orange
The Big Ten had a pretty good start to their NCAA Tournament and the Spartans can move themselves into the Sweet 16 with a win over Syracuse. Michigan State dispatched Bucknell in a physical game behind 53.4 percent shooting from the field and 29 points from Miles Bridges. The Orange, meanwhile have already picked up two wins, beating Arizona State and TCU by a combined nine points. Sparty is by far the more talented team, but the 2-3 zone of the Cuse can be the great equalizer.
Midwest Region: No. 11 Syracuse Orange (22-13) vs. No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (30-4)
Time: 2:40 p.m. ET (Sunday)
âWhere: Little Caesars Arena (Detroit)
Keys for Michigan State
The Spartans need to play like the more talented team and pound the ball inside all game long. They have so much size and strength to wear down Syracuse's Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe inside. If those two get into foul trouble, then it's all over most likely. Also, Michigan State cannot settle for threes and must push the pace whenever possible. The Spartans struggled from long range against Bucknell, making just five of their 17 3-point attempts but still managed to shoot better than 53 percent from the field thanks their dominance in the paint (32 points vs. 18 for Bucknell). Michigan State also controlled the boards against the Bison, out-rebounding them 40-28, which will be another key especially if the Spartans' shots aren't falling against the Orange's patented zone.
Keys for Syracuse
The Orange need to grind this game to a halt and make it a halfcourt battle. If Michigan State settles for 3-point attempts against Syracuse's zone and continues to struggle making them that plays right into the Orange's hands. Marek Dolezaj, who had a game-high 17 points in the win over TCU, needs to continue to be aggressive because that helps take some of the pressure off of the team's big three of Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. Finally, Syracuse has been playing with a chip on its shoulder since being one of the last teams to make the field of 68 and having to advance out of Dayton in the first place. The Orange need to maintain this mind set and play like they have nothing to lose.
Up front, I'm a Syracuse grad proud of the run this team has made. That said, it ends on Sunday and potentially ends in a blowout. The Orange find a way to keep things close, but this is the third game in five days for a team whose stars are playing all 40 minutes. Michigan State simply has too much talent and moves on.
Prediction: Michigan State 69, Syracuse 60
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.