Michigan State is no average No.7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans are set to take on No.10-seeded Georgia on Friday afternoon in the second round in what could be the start of a deep run in March Madness.
Ever since Michigan State made their first tournament appearance under head coach Tom Izzo in 1998, the Spartans have been a staple in March Madness. The selection began a string of 18 consecutive appearances that continues in 2015, and many of them have led to multiple victories.
During the school’s current stretch, they’ve advanced beyond the first weekend 12 times, including five of the last six seasons. This year’s Michigan State team might not be as good as the ones Izzo has coached in recent seasons, but the oddsmakers wouldn’t be surprised if the Spartans are one of the last teams standing.
The No.7 seed has 40/1 championship odds, tying them for the 10th-best odds in the tournament. No team seeded No.4 or lower has been given better odds than the Spartans, and they have better title odds than No.3-seeded Baylor and No.3-seeded Oklahoma. Some experts have even picked Michigan State to reach the Final Four.
The Spartans are 5.5-point favorites against Georgia, according to Las Vegas sportsbooks. No No.10 seed is getting more points than the Bulldogs, who aren’t expected to do much in the tournament, even if they get by their first matchup. Georgia has been given 300/1 betting odds to win the championship.
The Bulldogs haven’t had much March Madness success in recent years. They last reached the tournament in 2011, and they haven’t won a game in the field of 64 since 2002, though that victory was later vacated because of NCAA sanctions. It won’t be easy for Georgia to pull off the second-round upset.
Georgia has gone 21-11 this season, suffering just as many losses as Michigan State. But the Bulldogs played in an easier conference, and didn’t play well against elite competition. In eight games against NCAA Tournament teams, Georgia lost six times. Their only two victories came against Ole Miss, who was one of the last four teams to make the Big Dance.
Michigan State isn’t unbeatable, having lost three games to non-tournament teams, but seven of their defeats came against opponents that were seeded No.4 or better in the Big Dance. The Spartans have seven wins against teams that made the tournament.
Travis Trice leads Michigan State with 14.8 points and 5.2 assist per game. The Spartans are one of the most unselfish teams in college basketball, ranking fourth in the nation in assists. Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson combine to average 26.5 points and 15.3 rebounds per contest.
Georgia has a balanced scoring attack, with four players averaging between 10.9 and 12.3 points per game. They are a strong rebounding team, ranking 24th in the nation, as three players grab at least five boards a game.
Start Time: 12:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: truTV
Live Stream: NCAA March Madness Live
Point Spread: Michigan State favored by 5.5 points
Over/Under: 127 points
Prediction: Michigan State over Georgia, 73-62