Credit: Alex Brandon of AP Photo
By Dylan Wittenberg
The Michigan State Spartans and the Michigan Wolverines, not to many people’s surprise, are dancing in the NCAA Tournament. Both teams put together solid years, with the Wolverines finishing stronger with a Big Ten Tournament Championship. The Spartans, long on the bubble at the end of the year, were able to solidify a tournament resume with a home win against Wisconsin and a Big Ten Tournament win against Penn State. Here’s how far both teams can go:
Michigan State Can Only Win One Game This March
Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, projected by many to be a high seed and a viable title contender at the start of the year, are not the typical Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. Led by young and raw freshmen in Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, the Spartans’ biggest issue is their senior leadership and play. Alvin Ellis has been a decent player on the court, but as a leader he’s been a disappointment. Eron Harris, the team’s most talented senior going into this year, is out for the rest of the season. Michigan State’s leaders in points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, blocks per game, and field goal percentage are all freshmen. Although this displays a boatload of young talent, the leadership, experience, and continuity of a team that can make a run in the NCAA Tournament is just not there. Could the Spartans become that team in a matter of hours? Not likely, but not impossible. They should be able to play the Miami Hurricanes tight in their first match up of the tournament on Friday, but getting past a very good Kansas team in the next round is near impossible.
Michigan Could Go To the Final Four
The Michigan Wolverines are on some kind of special run. Led by Derrick Walton Jr., the team rode its way to the Big Ten Tournament championship after a wild plane crash scared everybody. Michigan has many of the pieces that go into a tournament run, from senior leadership to veteran talent. As we’ve seen in many instances in the past, a great point guard can take his team far. Take, for example, Shabazz Napier and UCONN in 2013 or Travis Trice and Michigan State in 2015, or even Steph Curry and Davidson in 2008. Walton is posting ridiculous numbers, posting 15 pints, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists on the year. DJ Wilson, Zak Irvin, and Moritz Wagner have all proved to be pivotal players that can rise to the occasion, too. The biggest difference between the Wolverines and the Spartans is senior leadership. Walton Jr. and Irvin have been very important in leading their team both on and off the court. The Wolverines should be able to beat Oklahoma State, which will set them up against the two seeded Louisville Cardinals. Both teams are playing well lately, but Michigan can certainly win this game. Should they beat Louisville, Michigan will most likely face off with the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks are a scary team. Lead by Dylan Brooks, Michigan will need to play a great game to win. That said, they had to play great games during the Big Ten Tournament, which they did. If they get past the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan will probably play Kansas. This will be the toughest match up for the Wolverines, but not impossible. They will have to play their best game, but Michigan has had Kansas’ number in the tournament before. Michigan can make the Final Four.