It was a perfect day in Auburn Hills, Michigan, as Michigan and Michigan State won back-to-back games to become the first two teams in the Sweet 16 – the first time both teams have made the same Sweet 16. The Big Ten continued its dominance of college basketball this season with two blowouts, improving the conferences record to 8-1 and making teams with a rating of 30 or higher in Breitbart Sports Alphabetical Guide now 16-3. The only bad news for the Spartans is that part of their 31-rating is due to the leadership of point guard Keith Appling who left in the second half with an injury.
The Spartans may need him against Duke, which had the third highest rating of any team with a 43, or Creighton in the next game.
The Spartans defeated a very solid Memphis team 70-48 in a strong showing that revealed a very complete Tom Izzo team. In a game that saw leading scorer Keith Appling manage only 2 points, Michigan State found other players to step up.
Gary Harris, who averages 12.8 ppg, led the way for Michigan State by scoring 23 points in a stellar performance for the Freshman guard.
Despite possessing a clear lead through most of the first half, the Tigers were able to close the gap to a three point margin as the Spartans led only 32-29 after the first 20 minutes.
Following the break, Michigan State steadily extended their lead to double digits and were able to hold the point differential throughout the half.
On full display throughout the game was the strong defense, rebounding, and fundamental basketball that have become staples of Tom Izzo’s program. I really liked what I saw from the Spartans, and I believe they have the potential to make a run.
In particular, Junior forward Adreian Payne is particularly impressive and brings a rare athleticism and physicality that makes a huge impact on both ends of the floor. Payne scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.
While the Alphabetical listing would have Michigan State tied with Creighton or an underdog against Duke, I am confident in my initial prediction that the Spartans would face Louisville in the Elite Eight.