On Saturday night at 8:40 p.m. eastern, MSU basketball will take on the Harvard Crimson in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. MSU is coming off a win on Thursday against 13-seed Delaware, while Harvard is coming off an upset against 5-seed Cincinnati. The game is in Spokane, Washington, and the winner will play the winner of Virginia-Memphis in the East region.
In Michigan State’s first game of the tournament, Adreian Payne stole the show, racking up a career-high 41 points on 17-17 free throw shooting. While the team as a whole played very well— they held the offense-heavy Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens to a low score throughout most of the game— Payne definitely propelled the team to a 93-78 victory, and he was deserving of all the attention he garnered.
Harvard, however, is coming off probably the biggest win of their season. They upset 5-seed Cincinnati in the first round, 61-57. Led by three double-digit scorers in Wesley Saunders, Laurent Rivard and Siyani Chambers, the Crimson won a tournament game for the second straight year, upsetting the Bearcats. While it was an upset, it probably was not a fluke. Harvard only had four losses all season (two to tournament teams the likes of Colorado and UConn) including just one in the Ivy League (a tight loss to Yale). In fact, they’re 33th in the country according to KenPom.com, which a lot of bloggers and journalists use almost religiously. In KenPom, Harvard’s most recent opponent, Cincinnati, is ranked 26th. Being that there’s only a seven slot difference between the two teams, the game was not as big of an upset as people may have originally thought.
Either way, let’s look at how Harvard matches up with the Spartans.
While Harvard is much better than people give them credit for, it’s going to be very hard to pull off a win. Harvard’s strong suit is their backcourt; they have a very weak front court, both offensively and defensively. The biggest problem with that? They have no one to guard Adreian Payne— their best big man is 6’7″. Being that Payne is coming off the game of his life, I don’t see that working out well for the Crimson at all. As far as offensively, Harvard’s biggest asset is that they’re very efficient shooters. They don’t take long shots a ton, but when they do, they make them. The biggest thing for the MSU defense is to make sure Harris (who will be checking Harvard’s best player, Wesley Saunders), Appling and Trice play lockdown defense from the perimeter and make Harvard get all their points from the inside. If they do that, MSU will be fine and on their way to the Sweet 16.
The game will be broadcast on TNT.