The field of teams in the NCAA Tournament has been whittled down to four and each has the opportunity to cut down the championship nets in Minneapolis.
These are the reasons why the Michigan State Spartans could win the title…and why they won’t.
WHY MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1. The Master of His Fate
If there has been an unsung star of the tournament, it has been guard Cassius Winston. He has played all but 10 minutes in the tournament and scored 76 points with 31 assists and just 11 turnovers. He is the straw that stirs the drink for the Spartans and has shown the ability to take over games when needed.
2. (D-I-S) R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Of the selection show storylines, MSU being denied a No. 1 seed after sharing its conference regular season title and winning the Big Ten tournament championship topped them all – much less putting them in the same region as No. 1 overall seed Duke. The Spartans corrected that mistake and are now getting the respect they deserved all along.
3. The Izzo Factor
Players come and go, but coaches learn how to handle the big moment and make adjustments. Auburn and Texas Tech are making their first Final Four appearances ever. Virginia hasn’t been there since 1984. Tom Izzo is making his eighth trip and has insight and experience the other coaches don’t.
4. Three’s Not a Magic Number
In their last three games, Michigan State opponents have made just 15 of 64 attempts (23.4 percent) from three-point range. In games that are tight, contesting 3-point shots has been a strength that has paid dividends in the tournament.
5. Sharing the Wealth
In wins over LSU and Duke, the Spartans had 40 assists and just 14 turnovers. They move the ball, spread the floor and consistently find the open man without taking unnecessary risks or forcing the ball into bad situations. The closer you get to a title, the more vital that becomes.
WHY MICHIGAN STATE WON’T WIN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Lucky Seven
The Spartans only go seven deep on their roster and get very little in the way of production beyond their seven-man rotation. If they get into a scenario where a couple of players get in foul trouble, they may not have an answer.
2. Goins, Goins, Gone
Senior forward Kenny Goins is a key player for the Spartans. He’s their leading rebounder (nine a game), but, like a lot of big guys, he likes to shoot 3-pointers. He made the shot that daggered Duke, but, in the tournament, he has made only 6-of 27 (22.2 percent) of his 3-point shots – and just 10-of-37 overall. If he stays cold, it could cost MSU a chance to win.
3. Playing Down to Competition
After losing the season opener to then-No. 1 Kansas, the Spartans went 10-0 against ranked teams. However, they lost five games to unranked teams (most of any Final Four team), including a pair to Indiana. They tend to play up to elite competition and down to teams they should be able to dominate.
4. It Don’t Come Easy
Despite their tournament success, the Spartans haven’t pushed opponents into foul trouble by driving to the basket and picking up fouls. In their last three games, Michigan State went to the free throw line just 25 times, making just 15 of them (60 percent). If that holds true in the Final Four, that could be a critical factor down the stretch when legs are tired and you’re shooting for the first time at crunch time.
5. Drunk History
While Izzo has brought his teams to the Final Four seven times since 1999, they’ve only won the title once – and that was in 2000. You can’t blame the current cast for that inconvenient truth, but history recurs for a reason and, until you stop a skid, it gets more pronounced.