You want to know what’s more difficult than picking an 8-9 game in March Madness bracket pools? It’s picking a 7-10 game.
Believe it or not, the 7-vs.-10 matchup is the closest thing to an opening-round toss-up that bracket enthusiasts will encounter. The No. 7 seeds win about 60 percent of the matchups.
Therefore, some may find it difficult to decide which way to go in Michigan State vs. Davidson in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
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The Spartans (22-12, 11-9 Big Ten) hail from one of college basketball’s deepest conferences. They had their share of issues in the league this season but still emerged with a winning record in Big Ten play and they’re led by longtime coach Tom Izzo.
The Wildcats (27-6, 15-3 Atlantic 10) are coming off one of their best seasons since Stephen Curry was at the school. Can they be trusted to go on another mini-run in this tournament? They have a lot of sharpshooters and possess the offense needed to threaten the Spartans.
Who will win this matchup between one of the field’s lower-ranked Power 5 teams and one of the best mid-major squads in the March Madness tournament? Sporting News is breaking down this 7-vs.-10 matchup that will determine the team that will advance to the NCAA Tournament’s second round, where it most likely will play No. 2 seed Duke..
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Michigan State vs. Davidson will be one of the final first-round NCAA Tournament games to tip off. It is scheduled to begin at 9:40 p.m. ET on Friday, March 18. Only two games — Colgate-Wisconsin and TCU-Seton Hall — are scheduled to tip off after it begins.
The Spartans have opened as slight favorites over the Wildcats, according to odds from Sports Interaction. Below are the odds and the details about the game, including its time, date and TV channel.
To call the Spartans an experienced team would be an understatement. Not only do they key senior players in Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr., they also have Tom Izzo as their coach.
Izzo has been the coach at Michigan State for 26 seasons. He has brought the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament 24 consecutive years, tied for the most by a coach with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
The Spartans began the season 14-2 and were considered one of the top teams in college basketball. But they had issues in Big Ten play and were 8-10 in their final 18 games. That included a 2-7 stretch against conference opponents.
Michigan State won twice in the Big Ten Tournament, beating Maryland and upsetting Wisconsin, before falling to Purdue. It has depth and solid talent, but does it have enough star power to make a deep tourney run?
Gabe Brown (6-8, 215-pound senior forward)
11.4 PTS, 3.9 REB, 1.1 AST
Max Christie (6-6,190-pound freshman guard)
9.5 PTS, 3.5 REB, 1.5 AST
Malik Hall (6-8, 225-pound junior forward)
9.4 PTS, 4.6 REB, 1.1 AST
Marcus Bingham Jr. (7-0, 230-pound senior forward)
9.2 PTS, 6.1 REB, 2.2 BLK
Tyson Walker (6-0, 175-pound junior guard)
8.1 PTS, 1.3 REB, 4.3 AST, 1 STL
The Wildcats’ coach has been tenured longer than Izzo. Bob McKillop has been at Davidson since the 1989-90 season when the school was an independent. He is presiding over one of the school’s most successful seasons in recent memory.
The Wildcats won the A-10 regular-season title this season. Only three of their losses came against teams that failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and one of those teams, Dayton, was the first team out of the NCAA field. They have four players who average at least 11.8 points per game.
Davidson is an excellent offensive team; it averages 75.6 points per game, 58th-most in the country. It also has the eighth-best 3-point shooting in the NCAA at 38.65 percent.
Can McKillop and Co. earn their first NCAA Tournament win since 2015? They’ll have a shot if they come out shooting hot.
Foster Loyer (6-0, 175-pound junior guard)
16.6 PTS, 3.2 REB, 3.3 AST
Hyunjung Lee (6-7, 210-pound junior guard)
16.3 PTS, 6.1 REB, 1.9 AST
Luka Brajkovic (6-10, 250-pound senior forward)
14.3 PTS, 7.1 REB, 2.6 AST, 1.1 BLK
Michael Jones (6-5, 210-pound senior guard)
11.8 PTS, 3.5 REB, 1.9 AST, 1 STL
Sam Mennenga (6-9, 245-pound sophomore guard)
7.8 PTS, 5.3 REB, 1.5 AST
This matchup is a true toss-up, as the point spread and the NET and KenPom rankings suggest. That said, it’s hard to go against Davidson.
Izzo and the Spartans have NCAA experience and were in the First Four last year. But McKillop has plenty of experience as well, and he brought a Stephen Curry-led Wildcats squad to the Elite Eight.
Additionally, Davidson’s 3-point shooting gives them considerably more upside than Michigan State. The Wildcats rank eighth in the country in making 3-point shots, but only 40.1 percent of their shots are 3-point attempts. That ranks 108th in the NCAA. If they need — or want — to take more 3s, they can.
The Spartans may be slightly deeper than the Wildcats, but they lack star power. Michigan State relies on its entire lineup to produce points; only Brown averages double digits. That type of balance can be beneficial, but if the two teams get into a high-scoring game, it may be hard for the Spartans to keep pace.
Some will point to the fact that the Spartans are 18th in the country in 3-point percentage as a reason to trust them. That’s a fair point, but Michigan State attempts 3-pointers on just 33.4 percent of its shots. That ranks 281st in the country out of 358 teams. It’s unclear if it maintain that percentage with higher volume in a potential shootout.
It also helps Davidson’s case that this game is being played in Greenville, S.C. That’s less than two hours from Davidson’s campus, so travel should be easy.
For more insight on this and every matchup, check out the TeamRankings Predictor Tool below. TeamRankings subscribers also receive access to customized, data-driven picks for their bracket pools.
Overall, No. 7 seeds hold an 87-57 advantage over No. 10 seeds since the NCAA Tournament bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. That would make Michigan State the correct pick historically.
However, it’s worth noting that the No. 10 seeds’ 57 wins are the most of any lower-seeded team over a higher-seeded team in the first round, per NCAA.com. The lower seed in this matchup has won roughly 40 percent of the games.
It’s also worth noting that a No. 10 seed has won at least one game in each NCAA Tournament since 2008, when Curry led Davidson to an upset win over Gonzaga before a storybook run to the Elite Eight.
Below is a breakdown of the wins 10-seeds have enjoyed over 7-seeds since 2009: