UCLA vs Michigan State: The UCLA Bruins (17-9) take on the Michigan State Spartans (15-12) to start their run in March Madness. When looking at this matchup, I expect a lot of points between the two teams. Neither team has a dominant force in the middle who destroys the boards and is a big-time rebounder. Neither team has a player averaging more than seven rebounds per game, and I expect this to show up, especially in this matchup.
We cannot forget that now we are finally in the tournament, and from here on out it’s simply win or go home. Both teams are going to be fighting to stay in the tournament, and based on seeding; this matchup is rather close. Both teams are 11 seeds meaning the committee feels they are comparable to each other.
Players to Watch
For UCLA, a key player to watch in this matchup is sophomore guard Johnny Juzang. Juzang, a transfer from Kentucky, stepped in immediately for the Bruins and led the team in scoring. On the year, Juzang led all scorers with 14.0 points per game. Juzang will need to have a strong performance for UCLA to compete with Michigan State.
For Michigan State guard Aaron Henry does it all for the team, and he is the driving force for the Spartans. On the season, Henry led all scorers with 15.3 points per game and added a team-high 3.5 assists per game. Henry knows how to score and also helps lead other players to the basket, which will be key for this matchup.
In this game, I expect it to be someone on either team to step up and really help solidify the win. In March, players make a name for themselves, and this is a great start.
Last Five Games
The Bruins had a better regular season than the Spartans, but towards the end of the regular season, the team struggled greatly. UCLA lost their remaining four games, and that is not exactly what you want to do when preparing for the tournament. UCLA will need to put this behind them and move on as it is now the NCAA tournament where anything can happen.
Michigan State (2-3)
Michigan State beat one of the best teams in the entire NCAA, coming away with a win over the Michigan Wolverines. This is a major confidence boost for the Spartans, who have a much younger team than usual. Usually, this team is filled with experienced players that have been under coach Tom Izzo for a while, primed for a big run in the tournament. Michigan State has shown at times this season that they can hang with the best of them, and it all starts with UCLA.
UCLA +2.5 (-110) Moneyline +120 Over/Under 134.5 (-110)
Michigan State -2.5 (-110) Moneyline -145 Over/Under 134.5 (-110)
When evaluating this matchup, I feel that Michigan State has the edge following a stronger finish to the end of the regular season. Michigan State played very good teams in Maryland and Michigan and challenged themselves quite a bit. Michigan State lost to Michigan in one of the games but won the other, and the Wolverines are a very good team.
With coach Tom Izzo who has plenty of experience coaching in the tournament, I feel that the Spartans will be well prepared for this game and will have enough to take down the Bruins.
Betting Pick: Michigan State -2.5
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