On Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself that a 7-seed sounded about right. Sure, a case can be made for MSU over Xavier. Or Butler. Or Providence. Well, over all of the 6-seeds, really.
But that's what losing to Nebraska earns you. And after all, the committee made so many prudent selections-
/sees Indiana in the field
//sees UCLA in the field
///cannot find Temple anywhere
. . .let's just get to the matchups.
Second* Round: 10-Seed Georgia
*Actually First Round.
Georgia went 21-11 overall and 11-7 in the SEC; they had no non-con wins of note, though they did have a solid shot at pulling the upset over Kentucky in both regular-season meetings. They also dropped both meetings with the SEC's other quasi-respectable team, Arkansas, though they did handle Razorback standout Bobby Portis much better the second time around. The Bulldogs have been riddled with injuries for most of the year, and will apparently be without Juwan Parker, who aggravated an Achilles injury in the SEC tourney loss to Arkansas.
Had I not spent many a whiskey-soaked night watching this Spartan team devise innovative new ways to throw games away, I would conclude victory would be assured. Georgia is a fairly small team inside, plays a short bench, and will not have their full complement of players healthy. That said, this MSU team's ability to seize defeat from the jaws of victory is sure to make this more interesting than the typical Spartan first-round matchup.
Third* Round: Probably 2-Seed Virginia
*Actually Second Round.
Yes, yes, I'm...sure Belmont is a lovely story. That said, this Virginia team doesn't mess around. The smothering effectiveness of Tony Bennett's pack line should have, by all rights, secured the Cavaliers a 1-seed in back-to-back years. Oh, but surely some far more deserving- I see it's Duke, I'm just going to walk away from this sentence right now.
If I'm being honest, I don't see MSU getting past Virginia this time around. Despite losing Joe Harris from last year's 1-seed team, the Cavaliers are probably better than they were a year ago, returning most of their other major pieces. Justin Anderson is coming off of a broken finger and has looked rusty, so perhaps he won't be at his best, but Virginia only lost two games after his injury, and both to ranked squads.
MSU, meanwhile, lost a few guys who were sort of important from a team that barely managed to beat UVa last year and has not really filled those holes entirely. The one player who gives me some confidence here would be Branden Dawson. He rampaged for 24 points and 10 rebounds against Virginia last year, and is coming off a strong B1G tournament. If he matches or surpasses last year's performance, MSU's shot for an upset would get much, much easier, but against a team as solid as Virginia, Dawson won't be able to do it alone.
Sweet Sixteen: Probably 3-Seed Oklahoma
I have yet to see a single prediction for anyone else to make it to this slot but Oklahoma. The Sooners play Albany in the first round, and then the winner of Providence vs. the winner of the play-in game between Boise State and Dayton. The name of Dayton, of course, will ring some bells in the minds of Buckeye fans out there, so perhaps it's shortsighted to write them off entirely. But ain't nobody got time to break down every team in the bracket, so let's presume the Sooners prevail and get to Syracuse.
Despite sporting Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, Oklahoma presents a balanced offensive squad, as 3 other starters average double figures in scoring and the fifth is over 9 PPG. Their stats do suggest a rather shallow team. Nonetheless, Hield is the type of player you want on your squad for the tournament, and would figure to be the Sooners' point man in a run this deep into the tourney.
What this matchup would look like, I really can't tell you. This is another team MSU beat last year, albeit in an early-season non-con matchup. Again, though, the difference between last year's MSU squad and this one suggests there isn't much predictive value in last year's result.
Elite Eight: 1-Seed Villanova, 4-Seed Louisville, or 5-Seed Northern Iowa
I'll try to keep this short.
Villanova, as is Jay Wright's wont, relies very heavily on guard play. As such, were MSU to advance this far, I would expect a beastly performance from Branden Dawson, and would actually feel better about MSU's chances here than against Virginia and possibly even Oklahoma.
Louisville would probably be the worst matchup for MSU at this spot. A quick turnaround to prepare for Pitino's patented press is not an ideal situation, and MSU has shown a lamentable tendency towards bad decisionmaking when pressure is ratcheted up, both in terms of the overall game setting and in terms of on-the-court defense. Louisville did dismiss starting point guard Chris Jones under hideous circumstances towards the end of the year, but Terry Rozier has for the most part looked up to the task.
UNI is the wild card. Sporting an All-American in Seth Tuttle, I've heard a fair amount of Cinderella chatter around them. I'm not sure that's an accurate thing to say about a 5-seed that won 30 games, but whatever floats your boat I suppose. One assumes that if the Panthers make it this far, Tuttle will be in the middle of a tournament run for the ages. Coach Ben Jacobsen has also been elevated onto the short list of mid-major coaches who are mentioned for every vacant or soon-to-be-vacant Power 5 coaching position, so he won't be overwhelmed by the moment if UNI gets this far.
My overall impression of MSU's road is that it's actually not too difficult. The problem is, the only consistent thing about this Spartan team is its inconsistency, not just between games, but within them. I truly have no earthly idea of how far they're going to go this year. They're certainly capable of beating everyone in their bracket. Problem is, they're equally capable of losing to any of them, as well. Guess we'll just have to watch and see, why don't we-
/sees game is at 12:40 PM
No, it's cool, I don't have to be at work or anything, square in the middle of the afternoon is good, great, grand, WONDERFUL.