Is #4 Michigan State is a Winning Pick for the 2018 NCAA Championship?

Is #4 Michigan State is a Win Pick for 2018 NCAA Championship?

Written by on March 8, 2018

The Big Ten is annually one of the three best conferences in college basketball, usually right there with the ACC as the best. Yet, the Big Ten hasn’t had a men’s basketball champion since 2000 when Michigan State gave Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo his first and still only title. Can No. 4 Sparty cut down the nets on the first Monday of April in San Antonio? MSU is a +550 second-favorite at in the March Madness betting lines at MyBookie.

Is #4 Michigan State is a Winning Pick for the 2018 NCAA Championship?

Two Stars In Bridges, Jackson

Michigan State had a spectacular year with 29 victories. It finished non-conference play with an impressive 12-1 record, which included a pair of victories against top 10 teams. The lone loss came against then-No. 1 Duke in the Champions Classic in Chicago. Sparty also won the Big Ten regular-season outright title for the first time since 2009. The Spartans also won 16 conference games for the first time. They have two 2018 NBA lottery picks on the roster in sophomore Miles Bridges and freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. Bridges, who was a unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection this year, leads Michigan State in scoring with 16.9 points per game, is second on the team with 6.9 rebounds and is third on the team with 2.8 assists per game. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring, 11th in rebounding and is also third in the league in free throw percentage (88.3 percent). He is one of only four players in the country averaging at least 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.8 blocks per game. Jackson Jr. was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year. He is the third Spartan to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year since it was first presented in 1986, joining Bridges and Gary Harris (2013). Jackson is fifth on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game and ranks No. 4 in the country, averaging 3.29 blocked shots per game. He finished the regular season with 102 blocked shots, establishing a new MSU single-season record. There’s a lot to like there, and Izzo is in the Final Four every few years it seems. Izzo’s team’s greatest asset is its interior depth. He has six players who are 6-foot-7 or taller, a revolving fleet of size that’s the anchor to a defense that has held opponents to a 38.4 percent mark inside the arc, the No. 1 team in America.

Now Sit & Wait

Michigan State went to New York City for last weekend’s Big Ten Tournament with the hopes of making a case for a No. 1 seed or at least solidifying a spot to play in nearby Detroit for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. However, Spartans lost their chance at the former with their upset loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Now Sparty is left to watch while the rest of the major conferences play their tournaments this week, and MSU’s fate will be determined by the other top teams in the Midwest. It won’t be any better than a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and probably won’t be headed to Detroit.  Playing right down the road was something the Spartans really wanted to land. Is MSU a safe bet to win the 2018 March Madness tournament? One unique thing this year is the Big Ten held its tournament a week early, so MSU will have extra time to rest up and prepare for the NCAA Tournament. “I haven’t ever been through that,” Izzo said. The coach will use the time to have review sessions on how to deal with teams that press and those that play zone defense with plenty of film study and individual drill sessions. Then it’s workouts Thursday, Friday and Saturday, including an intrasquad scrimmage with referees.

Plenty To Work On

Few teams have more talent than Sparty and they are a terrific interior defensive team. But … who hits the big shot? Bridges has at times settled for jumpers – more than 42 percent of his shots are 3-point attempts, and he is shooting 36.9 percent from behind the arc. He has not attacked the basket from the wing this year. Jackson is a monster in the paint but has struggled from behind the arc the past for much of the past month. The Spartans still lead the nation at 19.3 assists per game, and their total of 638 is 36 more than second-place Iowa. However, one of the biggest issues MSU has experienced in the past month-plus is offensive sluggishness. The Spartans only are averaging 16.3 assists in their last 13 games, including three straight games with just 10 assists. “We just want to continue to practice and stay in game flow,” Bridges said. “Just try to get better. We gotta get better with our offense, because we got a little too stagnant.”

Expert NCAA Championship Betting Prediction

The Spartans return to the Final Four and maybe even the title game depending on the matchup, but they won’t end the Big Ten’s title drought.