Michigan State basketball will be tested by athletic LSU squad

DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 23: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans shouts against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first half in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 23, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 23: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans shouts against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first half in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 23, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Michigan State basketball will be tested by an athletic, proven LSU team which won the SEC regular season title. Can the Spartans prevail?

Michigan State has had some struggles the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. In the Spartans’ opening-round game against Bradley, they were struggling to defend and to score. In the second game against Minnesota, they were able to score but they were struggling to hold on to the ball because they turned it over 22 times.

The Spartans are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years. They are proving that Tom Izzo still has it. They’re proving that you don’t need to be dominated by top freshmen to still have a great year and win in the tournament. They’ll try to lock down LSU’s top scorer Tremont Waters and they will keep Naz Reid off the glass — Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman have tough tasks ahead of them.

Michigan State rides into the second weekend of the tournament thanks to the play of Cassius Winston who’s averaging 18.9 points and 7.8 assists per game. He sometimes starts slow and is not aggressive on the offensive end. However, when the team needs him most he usually puts the team on his back and make MSU go on an 8-0 run to pull away.

We saw him do this against Minnesota when they were clawing back into the game. The Spartans have also relied on role player-type guys to step up and play more minutes and get quality play out of them. We will see if these tough-coached players can continue their success.

LSU has also had a terrific season led by Waters and Reid. However, the Tigers are out to prove they are still worthy of an Elite Eight and potential Final Four berth. They are without coach Will Wade because we was found on a wiretap making deals for players which is illegal in the realm of the NCAA rules.

Although that is all going down, LSU has managed to put together a nice run without their coach and win the SEC title. They’ve also advanced out of the first weekend of the tournament with wins over Maryland and Yale.

In their first game against Yale, they were struggling to pull away but ended up with a nice run at the end to put them up and win by four points. In the round of 32, LSU went up big on Maryland but then they hit a bump in the road and they were able to hit a huge three in the final seconds to put the pressure on Maryland. The Terps took that and answered to tie the game.

However with 12 second left, LSU brought the ball up the floor and Waters found a seam and took the ball to the hole for two with only 1.2 seconds remaining giving LSU a Sweet 16 berth. How long can the Tigers keep this competitive game play around. Will they be able to advance to the Elite Eight or will Michigan State prove to be too strong a team?

Here’s how to watch Friday’s Sweet 16 game:

Date: Friday, March 29
Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Washington, D.C.
Venue: Capital One Arena
Live Stream: CBS Sports Live or March Madness Live

Players to Know

Cassius Winston has been the go-to guy for this team all season long. The Spartans will go as deep in this tournament as Winston will allow them. He’s fighting to make it to the Final Four for the first time in his career and he’s about to play in his first-ever Sweet 16 matchup. Will he be able to handle the pressure of this game?

If he performs the way he has all season, then, yes, he will be able to handle it.

We have seen him step up in huge ways this season to get the team to win tight games. In all three games against Michigan this season, the runs that State went on were because of Winston. He’s also the reason Michigan State was able to keep such a large lead against Minnesota in the round of 32.

Minnesota had all the momentum and were inching their way back into this game with stops and turnovers but Winston did not want to leave the tournament early again so he stepped up and went on a small 7-0 run of his own to pull the game back out to double-digits and MSU did not look back. This game play will have to continue if MSU wants to beat the LSU Tigers.

Matt McQuaid has been a top defender for Michigan State all season long. He will have to continue this level of defense on Friday when MSU squares off against LSU. This is because MSU will have its hands full trying to keep Waters out of the lane for the easy buckets.

Winston will probably draw the Waters matchup for most of the night but with the way MSU switches everything, McQuaid will also see that matchup and McQuaid will be able to knock him off of his game a little bit and get in his head.

Not only will his defense need to be on point but his shooting will also need to be going strong as well. McQuaid has been a little quiet with his 3-point shots this post season but he can turn it on any given night. He is a 43 percent 3-point shooter and has made 3-for-7 from long-range. However, when McQuaid is knocking down some big shots then the rest of the team gets confidence that they can hit the big shots as well.

Tremont Waters  was held out of a few games with an injury and has been doing work in the first two rounds of the tournament. He’s averaging 13.5 points along with six assists in the first two rounds and he makes his teammates better.

When he’s on the floor, MSU will have to keep their defense up and slow Waters down and not let him get going on the offensive end. Waters is also a solid defender and he will also have his work cut out with having the Winston matchup — he will do everything he can to slow down Winston. That’s how MSU has been able to win games and what Waters will try to stop on Friday.

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This will be a great matchup between two good ball clubs. There will be some good player matchups with both sides having something to prove. One team will come out on top go into the Elite Eight with more to work to do while this will be the last game for the season for the other.

Prediction: Michigan State 87, LSU 76