All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big Twelve
Michigan State Spartans
Conference: Big Ten
Date: Friday, March 27
Time: 10:07 pm Eastern
Location: Syracuse, NY
Oklahoma vs. Michigan State in a very tight 3 vs. 7 matchup.
Oklahoma Michigan State
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #11 Strength: #16
Median play: #20 Median play: #12
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#10 Sagarin: #15
Pomeroy: #11 Pomeroy: #17
Offense: #46 Offense: #14
Defense: #6 Defense: #45
LRMC: #11* LRMC: #15*
BPI: #13 BPI: #17
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #9 2nd half/season: #17
Last 6 games: #12 Last 6 games: #6
Consistency: #251 Consistency: #230
It's pretty close between the Sooners and the Spartans in the various power ratings; Oklahoma has a slight edge in all five of them and over the 2nd half of the season, but in recent play Michigan State is a top ten team. They also come out on top if you use their median game rating. The teams have opposing strengths, with Oklahoma very efficient on defense and the Spartans top on offense. When Oklahoma has the ball, we're essentially watching a couple of bubble teams play.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (13): =UCLA+10, =Butler+13, Baylor+10, @Texas+21, Oklahoma St.+17, @Oklahoma St.+8, West Virginia+19, Iowa St.+11, Texas+2, Kansas+2, =Oklahoma St.+15, =Albany+9, @Dayton+6
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (2): =UCLA+10, West Virginia+19
- Losses to tournament teams (6): =Wisconsin-13, @West Virginia-21, @Kansas-7, @Baylor-11, @Iowa St.-7, =Iowa St.-2
- Other losses (4): @Creighton-2, =Washington-2, Kansas St.-OT, @Kansas St.-3
Key Info: The Sooners got some decent early wins against UCLA and Butler but also took hits from Creighton and Washington. They lost to 1-seed Wisconsin 69-56 on a neutral court. In the Big Twelve they hit a rough patch and lost 4 of 5 recovering to win 10 of their last 13. In that stretch they beat six tourney teams including 3-seed Iowa State and 2-seed Kansas, but lost to the Cyclones twice. They have 13 wins over tournament teams but just 2 against the Sweet Sixteen.
Buddy Heidl repeated as the Sooners' leading scorer at 17.5 ppg this year, but against Albany TaShawn Thomas led with 18. Jordan Woodard had 16 against Dayton with Hield adding 15.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (9): Indiana+20, @Iowa+14, Ohio St.+3, Purdue+6, @Indiana+2, =Ohio St.+9, =Maryland+4, =Georgia+7, =Virginia+6
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (0): none
- 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, so they don't have any Sweet Sixteen wins, but they did beat 1-seed Virginia.
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. Trice had 23 in the Virginia win.
Game Analysis: This is a very even 3-seed vs. 7-seed matchup, since Michigan State is far better than the normal 7-seed and they're playing their best lately.
As mentioned above, the teams have different strengths, Michigan State on offense, Oklahoma on defense. But that doesn't mean they can't excel in the opposite area: Oklahoma was 9 of 18 on three-pointers against Dayton, and Michigan State held Virginia to 30% shooting. It's just that the Sooners excel in more defensive attributes than offensive, and vice versa for Michigan State.
Since this is looking like a close game, it's worth noting that Michigan State is one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country, at 63%. It's hard to imagine that won't come back to bite them at some point, maybe even in this game. They hit just 57.9% against Georgia and 60.6% against Virginia and still won both games.
Michigan State by 2
Power rating: spread
Oklahoma by 1.3
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
Michigan St: 48.3%
Vegas—and the public—are recognizing the Spartans' strong recent play, as well as their propensity to win NCAA tournament games under Tom Izzo. By the Strength power rating, Oklahoma has the slight edge translating into about a 52% chance to win. This is anyone's game, on paper or otherwise.
Bottom line: Normally in a tight game, the free throw stat would be the tie-breaker—Oklahoma shoots well, MSU does not. But Michigan State is playing so well right now they can afford to miss a few from the charity stripe. If it's too many, though, Oklahoma wins. We'll stick with our original pick, which was to advance Michigan State to the Elite Eight.
Final prediction: Michigan State 67, Oklahoma 63
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.