Finally the Madness is here!

Michigan and Michigan State took very different routes throughout this college basketball season, but the results so far are similar.  Both are low seeds and playing very close to home as (4) Michigan plays (13) South Dakota State at 7:15 at The Palace of Auburn Hills while (3) Michigan State plays (14) Valparaiso at 12:15, also at the Palace.

Both in state schools are playing the rivals of other in-state programs, South Dakota State won the Summit League, home of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, while Valparaiso won the Horizon League, home to the Detroit Mercy Titans.

South Dakota State is home to one of the best point guards in the country in senior Nate Wolters.  Wolters was the fourth-highest scorer in all of college basketball with 22.7 points per game, and also finished with 5.8 assists per game to be tied for 24th.  Wolters is also second on the team with 5.7 rebounds per game, so clearly slowing Wolters down is a key to beating the Jackrabbits.

Luckily for Michigan they have the perfect player in Trey Burke to slow him down.  Wolters isn’t the most athletic guard and the energy he will have to expend trying to keep a guy like Burke in front of him most of the game will most likely wear on the senior.  Burke will get his points and Wolters will get his, but if it comes down to a last second chance give it advantage Wolverines with the amount of wear Wolters will have by the end of this game.

This game will match very similar styles as both the Wolverines and Jackrabbits are high scoring, shoot well from the field and neither team can rebound very well.  It will be a pretty high scoring game but I think that Michigan will be able to pull away and move on to the round of 32.

Now with the MSU and Valparaiso game it is a bit of differing styles between the two.  Michigan State is should try to force the ball down low to Nix and Payne as Valpo plays very small.  The Crusaders only have two players over 6’9″ and neither of them plays substantial minutes.  Sparty should dominate down low in the paint and control the tempo of this game.

Curtis has seen Valpo up close and personal more than I so he has a scouting report on the Crusaders:

After watching Valparaiso in about 4-5 games this season, here’s what I can tell you.

Ryan Broekhoff is the key for this team. The senior is averaging 15.9 points a contest and can get hot instantly. He also averages about 7.3 rebounds per game and when he is on his game, he makes all the plays for the Crusaders. However, like any good college player, he can go cold at times.

Defensively, State will have to try to keep the ball out of his hands and let the rest of the team beat them. However, Valpo is the oldest team in the country, with six seniors that play regularly for them. They have experience and a guy that can close a game or hit a big shot in Broekhoff. If Valpo were to get the win, they would have to have large games from two out of these three players: seniors Will Bogan, Erik Buggs, or Matt Kenney. Averaging 6.5, 6.8 and 8.2 points per game respectfully, they will need to score more to keep up with State.

My last key for them will be leadership. They have veterans who know how to win and play as a team. If State lets them hang around early, it could be trouble for the Spartans. This Valpo team does not quit and can weather storms pretty will because of all the seniors they have.

Even with the senior leadership I think that Sparty is going to be too much for the Crusaders to handle.  If Michigan State exploits the advantages that they have then this shouldn’t be a problem.  If Izzo decides that Appling and Dawson need to be a bigger part of the game plan, well that could spell trouble, but I still see MSU moving on to the Round of 32 as well.

Coming up after the games on Thursday we will preview the next opponents for each team, but keep an eye out later for more predictions on the tournament as a whole at or on Facebook and Twitter.

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