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Michigan State Basketball: Middle Tennessee Preview

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MSU kicks off their 2016 NCAA tournament run with a first round game against Middle Tennesse

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Middle Tennessee

Location: Saint Louis, MO

Time: 2:45pm EST

Channel: CBS

KenPom Line: MSU -15

Scouting report

  • One area that MSU should have the edge is in rebounding as MSU will have a significant height advantage over Middle Tennessee's 6'7" and 6'8" frontcourt players. While MTSU does have a good defensive rebounding percentage, it's an unadjusted number and they only had 4 Tier B opponents (top 100) with zero Tier A opponents (top 50).
  • As a reference, MTSU is #123 in KenPom and to put that in perspective, that's right around Illinois (124), Northeastern (126), and Penn State (137) all of whom MSU beat by at least 20 points.
  • 6'2" Giddy Potts is the Blue Raiders' leading scorer and he's shooting 50% from 3 on the year. Per hoop-math, it's not just spot-up shooting either as about 14% of his 3's are unassisted (Valentine is MSU's highest at 13%). He doesn't do much in terms of assist rate or getting to the FT line but he's actually a really good defensive rebounder for his height. He's been really efficient most of the year (124.1 ORtg on 21% usage) but he did struggle against the best team they played this year in VCU when he shot 1-9. What might be the most interesting part is how he's a good shooter for such a burly guy at 220 pounds.
  • 6'7" Reggie Upshaw is their second leading scorer as well as leading the team in assists and rebounds (it's only 2.2 assists though). He has a bit of range shooting 34.5% from 3 this year but he (along with seemingly everyone else on the team) is a poor free throw shooter at just 50%. As a team MTSU is 349th nationally in FT% at 60.7%.
  • 6'8" senior Darnell Harris' main value is as a jump shooting big as he's shooting 40% from 3 on the year and just 22.6% of his shots come at the rim with the rest being some kind of jumper (hook shots are considered jumpers). He doesn't provide too much outside of his perimeter shooting but being able to knock down outside jumpers or at least draw one of MSU's big man outside could be valuable.
  • 6'6" Perrin Buford is the 3rd leading scorer and leads the team in blocks. He's shooting 40% from 3 on limited attempts but he also have a very solid 2P%.
  • MTSU hasn't played a lot of good teams but they've mostly been in every game they've played as their biggest loss was only by 11 this year. As a team they shoot 38.9% on 3's with 88.2% of them being assisted which is top 100 in the country. However, in general they don't assist very much and they don't have a true point guard outside of an inefficient freshman Quavious Copeland.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

MSU on Defense

Things to watch for

  • Can MSU control the boards? While MTSU has a good defensive rebounding percentage, MSU's bigs should have an average of about 2 inches and 20 pounds on MTSU's frontcourt. Based on steal percentages it appears MTSU has a pretty athletic backcourt and it might be hard for non-Valentine players to create for MSU. If the Spartans are able to find easy putbacks, it'll be much harder for the Blue Raiders to pull the upset.
  • Can MSU get Bryn Forbes going again? While Forbes may not be entirely necessary in this one, it'd be nice to see him get that "I can go 8-10 without blinking" confidence going again especially with a potential matchup against Syracuse in the next round. He shot 1-10 from 3 in the past couple games but they weren't necessarily bad shots, they just happened to not go in.
Bottom Line

MSU should be able to roll in this one as there don't appear to be enough stats in MTSU's favor that would indicate they can pull an upset of this caliber.

MSU 84 - MTSU 63