Michigan State basketball must not overlook Bradley in round one

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 16: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans meets with head coach Tom Izzo in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the semifinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at the United Center on March 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 16: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans meets with head coach Tom Izzo in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the semifinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at the United Center on March 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Michigan State basketball faces an interesting first round matchup against Bradley, but the Spartans must not look ahead to round two.

Michigan State awaited its tournament seed and matchup on Sunday after their grueling come-from-behind win against Michigan. The committee did not give the Spartans much credit for all of the adversity they have been through and been able to figure out how to come out on top of these close games.

The Spartans were awarded the No. 2 seed in the East Region, putting them on a collision course with Duke. They have to be able to make it out of the first round before that happens, though, so what will their first matchup look like?

They drew Bradley in their first game and it will tip off on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. ET. Michigan State should handle this team pretty easily being able to let Cassius Winston and some other starters rest for a potential game on Saturday but what do we know about these Bradley Braves?

Bradley is averaging 66.6 points per game. They also average 34.4 rebounds per game along with only 12.1 assists per game. The Braves are also in the top 40 on defense because they are holding their opponents to just 65 points per game.

Michigan State shoots well from behind the arc, as seen by Matt McQuaid who shot 7-for-13 from behind the arc. With the way that the Braves have been defending the three, they almost dare their opponent to shoot from distance and if they want to get the upset they will need to step up and defend the arc.

However, as soon as they step up, Michigan State will have that quick burst of speed and get it down low in the paint and get an easy bucket.

Here’s how you can watch Thursday’s game:

Date: Thursday, March 21
Time: 2:45 p.m. ET
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Venue: Wells Fargo Arena
Live Stream: CBS Sports Live or FuboTV

Players to Watch

Cassius Winston will be the best player on the floor come Thursday afternoon. He’s coming off of a tough matchup against Michigan where he was heavily defended and could not get anything like he can usually do. How will he do in this game and how will he bounce back?

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Another thing to watch for is how much he will be able to rest. If they are up big and he is able to rest for the last 10 minutes or so that would be huge. Winston is coming off of a grueling schedule during conference play, averaging nearly 40 minutes for the last two months. He’s starting to show wear and tear on his knees and his tendonitis is kicking in. This could contribute to how he plays but come the second weekend, Michigan State will need him more heavily so he will need the rest.

Foster Loyer, Gabe Brown, Thomas Kithier: These three guys will be intriguing to watch. How will they step up in this big game? All three are freshmen and have never been on this big stage before. If they excel and continue to grow, like they have been doing since the start of the season, that’ll be a good sign for the Spartans.

If Michigan State can get some good minutes out of their freshmen in this tournament, it will give the star players minutes resting on the bench. In the Big Ten Tournament championship game, the Spartans lost a key reserve in Kyle Ahrens to a serious high ankle sprain and he will likely be out all tournament. That means one of these other bench players will need to take the next step and become a big time hustler player to get back what they lost in Ahrens.

Darrell Brown (Bradley) is the reason the Bradley Braves are in the Big Dance and they will continue to ride him into Thursday afternoon’s matchup with the Spartans. Brown is averaging 14.7 points along with 2.0 rebounds and 3.1 assist per game. He is doing this while only turning the ball over less than once per game. This will help them while these Braves are trying to do this unthinkable and knock the Spartans out of the dance in the first round for the second time in three seasons.

Brown is a do-it-all player who like to shoot but he also is not afraid to put the ball on the floor and and take it to the hole. The Braves will rely heavily on Brown and will need a perfect game from him in order to beat the Spartans.

Elijah Childs: Not only will the Braves be heavily relying on Brown they will also rely on Childs. He’s the Braves’ big man who will have to have a steady defense game as he tries to go up against Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman. Childs is also the Braves’ second-leading scorer with 12.2 points and he leads the team in rebounds at 7.8 and also leads the team in blocks with 1.3.

Childs is a beast down low and he knows how to box opponents out effectively. This will also be a focal point for the Braves if they want to win. However, if he or even Brown get into foul trouble, it’s game over for the Braves. This team needs to have both of these players on the floor for most of the 40 minutes or else this game could get out of hand.


Michigan State will come out of the gate a little sluggish. They won’t shoot the ball well as they let the Braves take a 20-7 lead on them in the first seven minutes of the game. However, Tom Izzo will get his angry face out and something within the team will click. The Spartans will come alive and they start playing like they want to make it to the final four.

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In just three minutes they will catch up and take a 25-20 lead with nine minutes to go in first half. After that, it’s game over for the Braves. The Spartans will not let up and they will be up by 15 at halftime. They will continue to surge in the second half and going up by as much as 25 points before they let the starters rest and bring in the reserves to finish out the game. The reserves will hold on to win this game by 12 points.

Final Score: Bradley 63, Michigan State 75