2016 NCAA Tournament Round Of 64 Preview: No. 2 Michigan State Spartans Play No. 15 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

2016 NCAA Tournament Round Of 64 Preview: No. 2 Michigan State Spartans Play No. 15 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

A preview of the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, as the Spartans of Michigan State take on the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee.

evan-petzold
Evan Petzold

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI -- In the Midwest Region, the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans will battle the No. 15 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Friday at 2:45 PM ET in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64. The game will be played at the Scottrade Center and will air on CBS. 

Know Michigan State

Many expected the Spartans (29-5) of the Big Ten Conference to lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the team settled for the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. Michigan State took the Big Ten Tournament title with a 66-62 win over the Purdue Boilermakers. During that tournament, Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine averaged 17.3 points, 9.0 assists and 8.7 rebounds. Watch out for Bryn Forbes, a guard, who has been dominant from downtown throughout the entire season. 

"We got a [Big Ten] tournament championship," Valentine said after claiming the league's automatic bid Sunday with a 66-62 victory over Purdue. "It's up to the committee who they seed. We have no control over that. We're just going to come out and play Michigan State basketball in the tournament."

Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans passes while defended by Caleb Swanigan #50 and A.J. Hammons #20 of the Purdue Boilermakers. Michigan State defeated Purdue 66-62. (March 12, 2016 - Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)
Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans passes while defended by Caleb Swanigan #50 and A.J. Hammons #20 of the Purdue Boilermakers. Michigan State defeated Purdue 66-62. (March 12, 2016 - Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

Tom Izzo, the head coach of the Spartans, owns a 46-17 record during the NCAA Tournament with seven final fours and a 2000 NCAA Tournament championship over the Florida Gators. In the game, Mateen Cleaves logged 18 points, two rebounds and four assists for the Spartans. Last year, Michigan State lost to the Duke Blue Devils in the Final Four. 

Know Middle Tennessee

This will be the second NCAA Tournament for Middle Tennessee of Conference USA in the last 27 years and are making their eighth appearance all-time. The Blue Raiders (24-9) got an automatic bid for winning the Conference USA Tournament title this weekend. 

"It's the best memory I'll ever have as far as basketball is concerned," Reggie Upshaw said. "I know my teammates feel the same way."

(AP/ Michael Conroy)
(AP/ Michael Conroy)

The Blue Raiders feature four players who score more than 10 points per game in Giddy Potts (14.4 points per game), Upshaw (13.8 points per game), Perrin Buford (12.0 points per game) and Darnell Harris (11.6 points per game). Upshaw, while a forward, leads the team with 2.2 assists per game and pulls down a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game. 

Kermit Davis, the coach for Middle Tennessee, led the team to a 24-9 overall record and a 13-5 record in Conference USA play. The best win for the team was an 88-81 overtime victory over the Auburn Tigers on December 12, 2015. The worst loss for Middle Tennessee was a two point loss on the road against the Georgia State Panthers.

The most recent NCAA Tournament appearance for the Blue Raiders was as an at-large bid out of the Sun Belt Conference in the 2013 season. Middle Tennessee lost in the First Four and were eliminated from the tournament. 

Last Five

In the last five games for Michigan State, they have defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Ohio State Buckeyes, Ohio State Buckeyes, Maryland Terrapins and Purdue Boilermakers. As a matter of fact, the Spartans have won nine straight and the last 13-of-14 games. 

Middle Tennessee has also gone undefeated in the teams last five games with victories over the Florida Atlantic Owls, Florida International Golden Panthers, Charlotte 49ers, Marshall Thundering Herd and Old Dominion Monarchs

Prediction

VAVEL USA predicts that Michigan State wil defeat Middle Tennessee, 81-59. This season, it is NCAA Tournament Final Four or bust for the team from East Lansing, Michigan. 

What Would Be Next?

The winner of the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 game between Michigan State and Middle Tennessee will battle against either the No. 7 Dayton Flyers or No. 10 Syracuse Orange, who will play on Friday at 12:15 PM ET. 

Projected Starters

No. 2 Michigan State Spartans 
G - Bryn Forbes
G - Eron Harris
G - Denzel Valentine
F - Deyonta Davis
F - Matt Costello

No. 15 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
G - Giddy Potts
G - Jaqawn Raymond
F - Perrin Buford
F - Darnell Harris
F - Reggie Upshaw

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