Last Updated: 2019-03-26
The East Region Sweet Sixteen starts Friday, March 29, 2019, with the matchup between the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers and the No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. The Big Ten representative Michigan State is listed as a 6-point favorite with the total at 148.5 points and the SEC regular-season champion LSU at +230 money line odds. The Spartans defeated Bradley and Minnesota in the previous two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, while the Tigers outlasted Yale and Maryland to reach the Sweet Sixteen. This will be the second-ever head-to-head duel between LSU and Michigan State, and the Spartans beat the Tigers 87-71 in 1979.
Many doubted the LSU Tigers’ chances to get out of the first weekend without their suspended head coach Will Wade. However, Tony Benford did a great job in the last few weeks, becoming the first interim coach to take his team to the Sweet Sixteen since 1989. The Tigers defeated Yale 79-74 in the first round and Maryland 69-67 in a dramatic second-round matchup. Still, they had a lot of ups and downs during these games and will need to improve if they want to reach the Elite Eight. Against the Maryland Terrapins, the Tigers shot just 36.9% from the field, allowing 14 offensive rebounds to their opponents, while they almost dropped an 18-point lead against the Bulldogs in the first round.
LSU is scoring 118.1 points per 100 possessions this season (9th in the country) on 51.4 effective field goal percentage (134th) while making just 32.0% of their 3-point attempts (287th). On the other side, the Tigers are allowing 96.1 points per 100 possessions (49th) on 49.7 effective field goal percentage (127th). Their strength of schedule was 36th in the country. The sophomore PG Tremont Waters is a key player in this LSU team, averaging 15.0 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.0 steals per game while making 43.0% of his field goals. The freshman PF Naz Reid is a go-to-guy in the paint, tallying 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest, while junior guard Skylar Mays is adding 13.6 points per outing.
The Michigan State Spartans had some problems to defeat the Bradley Braves 76-65 in the first round, and the head coach Tom Izzo was furious during and after the game. His reaction led to a 70-50 demolition job over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second round, as the Spartans showed why they are among the strongest favorites to win the National Championship. The Spartans shot 57.1% from the field while posting 26 rebounds more than the Golden Gophers who made only two of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc. Still, the Spartans turned the ball over 22 times, so Tom Izzo couldn’t finish the first weekend without a serious headache.
The Spartans are scoring 119.9 points per 100 possessions this term (7th in the country) on 55.8 effective field goal percentage (14th) and 38.1% shooting from beyond the 3-point line (24th). They are surrendering 91.2 points in a return (13th) on 43.5 effective field goal percentage (3rd). The Spartans’ strength of schedule was 4th in the country. The junior PG Cassius Winston is leading the way for this Michigan State team, averaging 18.9 points and 7.5 assists per game while hitting 47.1% of his field goals. Another junior Nick Ward is tallying 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest while shooting 59.1% from the field. The senior wing Kenny Goins is doing all the little things on the floor, averaging 8.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 30.1 minutes per game.
Pick: Michigan State Spartans -6.0
With Cassius Winston driving their offense, the Spartans should make a lot of damage here, as the Tigers’ defense is arguably their weakest link. If the Spartans play defense at their highest level, I don’t see how the Tigers will win this game. Also, if they stay inconsistent as in the previous two rounds, the Tigers will be in big trouble. Hereof, I’m backing the Spartans to make it to the Elite Eight, and I think they should cover the spread, although it could be a tricky job. The Tigers are 6-0 ATS in their last six outings as underdogs, but Michigan State is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games as a favorite of six or fewer points. Also, the Spartans are 3-0 straight up and ATS in their previous three meetings with the No. 3 seed and they are 7-4 ATS in the previous 11 Sweet Sixteen matchups.
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