Senior forward Derek Nix hopes to extend is college career as the Michigan State Spartans take on the Memphis Tigers Saturday afternoon in the third round of the Midwest Region at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Nix put on a dominating display in the No. 3 Spartans 65-54 beat down of No. 14 Valparaiso, with 23 points and 15 rebounds. It was the second time in Nix’s career that he scored 20-plus points, the first coming back in December when he put up 25 in a win over Texas.
Michigan State’s largest lead was 27 points in the second half, as Keith Appling netted 15 points and six rebounds, and Gary Harris totaled 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The Spartans overwhelmed Valparaiso on the glass 44-20, but also served up 17 turnovers.
No. 6 Memphis didn’t have nearly as easy a time in its narrow 54-52 second round escape against Saint Mary’s Thursday. The Tigers nearly blew a 15-point lead, and their turnover with 3.1 seconds left gave the Gaels a chance to win at the buzzer, but Matthew Dellavedova’s last second came up short.
Guard Joe Jackson scored 14 points, while Adonis Thomas and Tarik Black chipped in 12 points apiece. Jackson connected on his threes, going 2-for-3, but shot 5-for-13 overall, much lower than his 52 percent clip this season. He also shot 46.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Scoring well below their season average of 75.9 points per game, the 31-4 Tigers also struggled from the free throw line, going 9-for-18, but still pulled off their first tournament victory since 2009.
The winner advances to the Sweet 16 and faces either No. 2 Duke or No. 7 Creighton next weekend.
The game tips-off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Michigan State is favored by 6 points.
Over/Under: 130 points
Prediction: The Spartans will try to slow the game down, and let Nix work in the half court. Appling will have his hands full with Memphis’s Jackson, who will try to go off from 3-point range. If the Spartans find a way to contain Jackson and Thomas, and control the boards again, they will move on.
Predicted Score: Michigan State 60, Memphis 52