NCAA Tournament Preview: Michigan State And Maryland Lock Metaphorical Horns

With giant-killer Northern Iowa waiting in the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan State and Maryland look to make it out of Spokane. The game promises to be a tough, physical contest, befitting both schools and their elite coaches.

The Only Colors, our Michigan State blog, finds the matchup challenging but not impossible for their Spartans:

The Terps will look to push the ball, as they do much of their damage on the fast break.  Their adjusted tempo--70.1, 56th nationally--reflects that preference.  MSU, of course, is better equipped to play an uptempo game than most of our Big Ten brethren, but we struggled mightily on Friday when New Mexico State cranked up the tempo.  The biggest key to the game for us is the same as ever: dominate the rebounding battle and capitalize on our second chances.

For our purposes, we'll assume that the effort will be there (if it's not there with a chance to go to the round of sixteen, then, um, I don't know what to tell you . . . ), but MSU should have the opportunity to rebound lots of its own misses.  However, it's just as important to keep Maryland off the offensive glass: while the Terps are a poor defensive rebounding team, their 35.7% OR% is certainly respectable.

My anxiety about this game has roughly quadrupled since we learned earlier today that Chris Allen may be in worse shape than any of us expected.  We missed him desperately against Minnesota; Maryland is a much better team than the Gophers are, and Allen is the ideal prospect to guard the Terps' best player.  Fingers crossed for a quick recovery.

KenPom, fickle mistress that he is, predicts a 75-71 Maryland victory.  The winner gets Northern Iowa, who had a bit of an exciting Saturday, as you might have heard.  While UNI is playing fantastic basketball and will be a highly formidable opponent for either team, it's impossible not to think that Kansas's loss has blown the bracket wide open.  As Wojo wrote earlier tonight, MSU is now presented, all of a sudden, with a tremendous chance to make more noise in this tournament than was previously thought possible.  Here's hoping that this team can join the ranks of great MSU teams of the past that saw similar opportunities, and seized them.

Testudo Times also sees an inherent advantage for the Terps:

 

Actually, Maryland has a pretty sizable advantage over MSU when you look at it statistically. Their offensive efficiency is much better, and their defensive efficiency is comparable. Their eFG% rates, on both offense and defense, are better. Their TO% rates, on both offense and defense, are better.

The problem comes, unsurprisingly, on the boards, where Michigan State holds a decisive advantage. Maryland has battled against that all year, and you can bet they're not looking forward to it again. Limiting second chances for Michigan State will be key.

The Sports Network preview is here. The game should tip off around 2:30 EDT, and you can watch it on CBS or CBS' March Madness On Demand.

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