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TOC Staff Picks: Michigan State vs. UCLA

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The winner will play BYU on Saturday

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State will open the NCAA Tournament with a battle against UCLA. The game is scheduled to tip at 9:57 ET.

The Spartans come in having won five of their last eight games, while UCLA has lost four straight. The winner moves on to play BYU in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Here’s what our writers think about the game.

Ryan O’Blenes

Michigan State 76, UCLA, 71

UCLA provides a tough battle, but the Spartans outlast the Bruins. This is an interesting matchup as UCLA is the much better offensive team, but Michigan State is the much better defensive team. At the end of the day, I think Michigan State is the tougher team, and enjoys the change of pace against a non-Big Ten opponent. Aaron Henry leads MSU to victory.

Matt Sheehan

MSU 70, UCLA 69

I already want someone to hold me. These teams match up to each other too well for it to be a blowout one way or another, and I think Aaron Henry gets the better of his matchup with Johnny Juzang at the end of the game. All right, I’m going to go crack open a beer now. I’m stressed.

Zach Manning

MSU 71, UCLA 63

I think this game really comes down to one player: Rocket Watts. When he’s playing well, MSU is a hard team to beat. When he struggles, the Spartans are just average. He’s looked a little more confident over the last few games, and I think that carries over into this one. MSU does enough to get the win.

John Kirby

Late night tip for a game made specifically to maximize viewership because the host organization is in financial crisis?

ViacomCBS and the NCAA 1, My Nerves and Liver 0

Also, MSU 67, UCLA 66

David Harns

UCLA 70, MSU 68

Don’t be mad at me. Here, read my article about MSU’s Winter Academic All-Big Ten Honorees and hope that my reverse jinx does the trick.

Paul Fanson

MSU 82, UCLA 70

I think that there are basically two ways that this is going to go. One way is that MSU is rested, both mentally and physically, and sharp as a tack. In this case, I think that UCLA’s porous defense might be just the medicine that this team needs to ignite another unexpected MSU run in March. The other way is that we see the version of MSU that played in the final 30 minutes of the Maryland game, and MSU just looks lost and gets run out of Mackey by 30. I choose to believe that we will see the first version of events. MSU leads by double-digits most of the way and coasts to a double-digit win. The bottom line is that UCLA is not that good. The version of MSU that I expect (hope?) to see should roll them.

Kevin Knight

MSU 72, UCLA 69

Call it revenge for the 1966 Rose Bowl or revenge for the 2011 First Round NCAA Tournament game, Spartans gut out a win over the Bruins in a way that puts King Leonidis and the wolf to shame. That or unspeakable sadness will set in until the start of next season. One or the other.

Moritz Wollert

MSU 74, UCLA 63

Which MSU team will show up? The offensively challenged, swiss cheese D team from earlier in the year or the hard-nosed, tough-minded one we enjoyed a few weeks ago? The lay off should have helped Aaron Henry, he is the best player on the floor and the most experienced one leading his team to victory. X factor? Julius Marble as a rim runner.

Samuel Tyler

MSU 75, UCLA 68

You all can see my prediction in the preview (whatever I ended up going with i will stick with, but this could be a 15 or 20 point win for MSU...UCLA has a lot of quit in ‘em).

Zachary Smith

MSU 60, UCLA 50

Not a lot of points. Not a lot of fun. Gets us into the round of 64, so that’s all that matters.

Some of The Only Colors staff will participate in full tournament picks using Tallysight. Those picks can be found below.