The Michigan State Spartans are double-digit favorites when they play Bucknell Friday night in the NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. It's looking more and more like a season in which a program will get its first national title and/or a team seeded below #4 and above #8 might win it all. The Bison also hung around with VCU and St. Joseph's, notching wins over Ball State, Siena, Richmond and La Salle. Oklahoma won just two games since the end of January, and we'll discuss the Sun Devils' collapse below. Still, when Winston is on, he is one of the nation's best lead guards.
Three players are averaging in double figures for Bucknell, they are Zach Thomas (20.3), Nana Foulland (15.4) and Stephen Brown (14.9).
In a conference that is admittedly not the most competitive among the Power Five, the Spartans' resume is highlighted by a 68-65 thriller against the then-third-ranked Boilermakers.
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Key number: +10.4, Michigan State's rebounding margin.
Sending multiple teams to San Antonio would likely overshadow a season when the Big Ten was arguably the worst from top to bottom in recent memory, but breaking the conference's national title slump would be an even bigger statement.
It is the 21st straight year the Spartans (29-4) have made the NCAA field under coach Tom Izzo. It's hard for any team to match the size and athletic ability of this bunch.
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The Boilers finished with a 28-6 overall record and were 2nd in the Big Ten. They seem to struggle most with three and four guard lineups, see MI in a 76-64 loss in the Big Ten tourney semifinals. Back in 2005, the Bison were a Cinderella, knocking off No. 3 Kansas. Only North Carolina or Duke could play its first- and second-round games in Charlotte, North Carolina, after Virginia was sent there.
In fact, the Spartans can attribute much of this year's success to Bridges-the Flint, Mich., native averages 16.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game that sets him as the tip of the spear for Michigan State's offense. Here's what you should know about the Patriot League champions. The victor gets #6 Houston or #11 San Diego State in the 2nd round.
The Tigers finished 11-5 in the Southeast Conference and bowed to Texas A&M, 75-69, in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal game.
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