Fans and television viewers could be in for a non-stop, dynamic scoring display as No. 4 Michigan State and No.7 Connecticut square off in Sunday’s East Region final from Madison Square Garden.
Already the best long-range shooting team in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies (29-8) have shot 47 percent from deep during the tournament with guards Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels accounting for 18 of the teams 30 made threes.
Head coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans (29-8) are equally accurate from the three-point line, ranking second in the Big Ten with 39.3 percent and just surpassing that mark at 40 percent in the tournament. Much of Michigan State’s success comes on the shoulders of senior forward Adreian Payne, who’s worked the post and stretched defenses with his jumper for 23 points off 51 percent shooting from the floor and 5.6 rebounds per game.
On the year Michigan State pumped in 76.2 points and 17.1 assists per game, the sixth best passing number in the nation. As a team the Spartans have also remained cool under pressure, knocking down 54 of 65 free throw attempts during the tournament.
The Huskies averaged 71.9 points during the regular season, but have made a big leap in the tournament with 82.3 points per game.
Both squads escaped the Sweet 16 with Connecticut continuing to rain three pointers on Iowa State, and Michigan State gutting it out against No. 1 Virginia despite being outrebounded and losing the turnover battle.
Daniels shot 10-for-15 from the floor for 27 points and added 10 rebounds, and Napier fired off another 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in the 81-76 win over the Cyclones on Friday. Nearly letting up a 10-point halftime lead, Connecticut also got a huge boost of 10 points off the bench from freshman Terrence Samuel.
Losing the rebound battle for the first time the tournament, Michigan State relied on 24 points and 10 rebounds from Branden Dawson and another 16 points, five boards and two blocks from Payne.
The two schools met once before in the tournament with the Spartans coming out on top 82-73 in the 2009 national semi-final. They’d later lose to North Carolina in the title game.
TV Channel: CBS
Time: Sunday, 2:20 p.m. EST
Point Spread: Michigan State -5.5
Over/Under: 139.5 points
Prediction: Michigan State over Connecticut 81-74