All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Michigan State Spartans
Conference: Big Ten
Date: Sunday, March 22
Time: 12:10 pm Eastern
Location: Charlotte, NC
Justin Anderson played his first productive minutes in weeks against Belmont, and he'll have to be full speed when the Cavaliers take on the Spartans.
Virginia Michigan State
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #7 Strength: #17
Median play: #8 Median play: #13
Road/Neutral Rank: #3 Road/Neutral Rank: #10
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#4 Sagarin: #17
Pomeroy: #4 Pomeroy: #17
Offense: #27 Offense: #14
Defense: #1 Defense: #53
LRMC: #7 LRMC: #15
BPI: #4 BPI: #18
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #6 2nd half/season: #17
Last 6 games: #11 Last 6 games: #8
Injury correction: #4 Injury correction: #15
Consistency: #254 Consistency: #241
Deep Run Rank: #6 Deep Run Rank: #19
Best Shot: #8 Best Shot: #16
Schedule Strength: #35 Schedule Strength: #24
Virginia slipped a bit lately without a healthy Justin Anderson but with him back, we use the Injury Correction value that weeds out the games where he wasn't present. Overall Virginia rates as better than Michigan State narrowly but consistently, with the nation's #1 defense. Michigan State is a lot stronger than a normal 7-seed.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (10): @Maryland+11, @VCU+17, Harvard+49, Davidson+11, North Carolina St.+10, @Notre Dame+6, @North Carolina+11, Louisville+5, @North Carolina St.+4, =Belmont+12
- Losses to tournament teams (3): Duke-6, @Louisville-2, @North Carolina-4
- Other losses (0): none
Key Info: How does a team go 29-3 and get a 2-seed? When last year a 28-6 record was enough for a 1-seed? Simple: play in a historically great year for top teams, and lose to your main competition for that 1-seed. Virginia did everything right for most of the season, winning their first 19 games. They lost to Duke, won 9 more, then lost two of three (to Louisville and North Carolina, both 4-seeds, both on the road)....and that was enough to demote them. A factor in their late "slide" was the absence of Justin Anderson, the team's 2nd leading scorer (12.3 ppg, 47% 3-point shooter). He was out with an injured hand (and an appendectomy) and missed 8 games including the Louisville loss, then returned for the ACC tournament but went 0 for 6 in 2 games, clearly not close to 100%.
Malcolm Brogdon leads the Cavs with 13.9 points per game; he led the team with 22 against Belmont while Anderson had 15, playing 26 minutes off the bench.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (8): Indiana+20, @Iowa+14, Ohio St.+3, Purdue+6, @Indiana+2, =Ohio St.+9, =Maryland+4, =Georgia+7
- Losses to tournament teams (8): =Duke-10, =Kansas-5, @Notre Dame-OT, Texas Southern-OT, Maryland-OT, @Maryland-16, @Wisconsin-7, =Wisconsin-OT
- Other losses (3): @Nebraska-2, Illinois-5, Minnesota-OT
Key Info: While this ended up being an "off year" for the Spartans, they were really a good team that played very inconsistent basketball, with no better example than the home loss to Texas Southern. The Tigers made the tournament, which should ease the embarrassment a bit, but at the time they were just 1-8. The recovery came in fits and starts, losing twice to Maryland and to Nebraska. It wasn't until the Big Ten tournament that things looked completely all right, with a 2nd win over Ohio State and finally beating Maryland. The Spartans almost had Wisconsin but let them escape. They didn't win any of their big pre-conference games against Duke, Kansas, or Notre Dame.
Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine stepped up for the scoring honors this year at over 14 ppg apiece; they had 15 and 16 respectively against Georgia.
Game Analysis: We said before the Belmont game that Justin Anderson's status didn't matter for the first round, but would be an issue for the next. Turns out, he was needed against Belmont and might have been the difference between winning and being upset. His 15 points were critical in what was a close game until the final minutes before the Cavs could pull away.
Against Michigan State he'll be needed just as much if not more. The Spartan guards are as good as anybody's, and Brogdon alone isn't their match. With Anderson back Virginia can hope to keep them in check; it's still doubtful he's at 100%.
But Virginia's big men are often overlooked. Michigan State's Brandon Dawson is great, but Virginia has a trio of guys his size in the middle. At their best Virginia can outplay the Spartans both inside and outside against Michigan State, but recently they haven't quite been playing their best.
Tempo is always an issue when Virginia is discussed. They force a slow tempo both when they have the ball and when they're on defense. Michigan State isn't the fastest team, but they like to get a shot off fairly quickly; their own slower tempo comes from tough defense not allowing good shots. In any case, look for a low-scoring game.
Virginia by 5
Power rating: spread
Virginia by 4.5
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
Michigan St: 39.4%
A bit surprisingly the Vegas line is a touch above our power rating's projected margin. Maybe it's the return of Anderson that's been taken into account. In a normal 2 vs. 7 clash, the 2 wins 74% of the time, but as you see this one is considered to be closer by the game-comparison method.
Bottom line: Anderson is back, problems over? Not really; they didn't play any better against Belmont than they had been playing, and Michigan State is kind of on a roll. We picked the Spartans before the tournament, figuring that Anderson's woes would knock the Cavs out at some point. We'll stick with MSU and the upset.
Final prediction: Michigan State 57, Virginia 55
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.