Auburn Hills, Mich. — One of the biggest lessons Tom Izzo said he’s learned from his first NCAA Tournament is to prepare not just for his first opponent, but instead for the entire weekend.
With the MSU men’s basketball coach’s words of wisdom in mind, here are some of the challenges standing in the way of a Sweet 16 berth for the No. 3 seed MSU men’s basketball team (25-8), beginning with No. 14 seed Valparaiso (26-7) on Thursday (12:15 p.m., CBS) in the Spartans’ tournament opener.
Hometown: Valparaiso, Ind.
Head coach: Bryce Drew (48-19 in two seasons at Valparaiso)
Top player: Ryan Broekhoff. The 6-foot-7 forward leads Valparaiso in scoring, rebounding, 3-point shooting, blocks and minutes played. Averaging 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, he plays more like a guard than a forward and with unlimited range on his outside shot, will be a tough matchup to defend.
Summary: Valparaiso uses a smaller, guard-oriented offense, aimed at spacing the floor and creating opportunities to capitalize with the 3-point shot. Their ability to score from all areas of the floor combined with their veteran experience from an all-senior starting lineup, is what Izzo called their biggest threat.
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Head coach: Josh Pastner (105-33 in four seasons at Memphis)
Top player: Joe Jackson. The 6-foot-1 guard not only leads the Tigers in scoring, but also in assists, steals and 3-point shooting, while shooting an efficient 52.7 percent from the floor. Jackson has exceptional quickness and is particularly tough to defend.
Summary: Quickness and athleticism define the Tigers’ attack, as Memphis looks to push the ball as frequently as possible. Yet what makes them most difficult to defend is their balance throughout the roster. Jackson is one of seven Tigers to average more than 7.5 points per game.
Hometown: Moraga, Calif.
Head coach: Randy Bennett (263-124 in 12 seasons at St. Mary’s)
Top player: Matthew Dellavedova. Dellavedova is the leader of a potent St. Mary’s offense, leading the team in scoring, assists and steals as the Gaels’ senior floor general. One of the brightest players in the tournament, Dellavedova makes plays for himself and his teammates while making other teams pay for being underprepared.
Summary: St. Mary’s follows the lead of their senior captain in almost every way. They’re smart, tough, efficient and unselfish.
The Gaels have an explosive offense, with five players shooting at least 35 percent from beyond the arc.