PREVIEW: Spartans to play Miami Hurricanes for second-ever meeting
TULSA, Okla. — After an exit in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to the University of Minnesota on March 10, the No. 9-seeded Spartans will enter March Madness with a new opponent in mind.
- WHO: No. 8 Miami (21-11 overall, 10-8 ACC) vs. MSU (19-14 overall, 10-8 Big Ten)
- WHEN: 9:20 p.m. EST
- WHERE: BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
- FOLLOW ALONG: Twitter: @thesnews_sports, Audio: Spartan Sports Network, TV: TNT
Miami last took the court on March 9 when the Hurricanes fell to the No. 1-seeded University of North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, 78-53. Miami won key games in its Atlantic Coast Conference season slate with wins over UNC and then-No. 10 Duke, but ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak.
MSU's matchup against Miami will be the second game played between the schools. The Hurricanes won the first game on Nov. 28, 2012 at home by a final score of 67-59.
Throughout the regular season, Miami went 3-8 against teams in the AP top-25, and is ranked No. 42 by the NCAA in the Rating Percentage Index, or RPI — a metric used by the NCAA to rank teams based on a team's wins and losses and strength of schedule.
MSU is ranked No. 50 in RPI, and holds a number of similarities to Miami.
MSU will come into the matchup scoring 71.7 points per game and allowing 68.4, while the Hurricanes score on average 69.4 points and give up 63.7 per contest. The Spartans own a marginal advantage in field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense: MSU is shooting at 46.8 percent from the floor and limiting opponents to 40.6 percent from the field. Miami will come into Friday shooting 45.3 percent from the field while holding opponents to 41.4 percent.
When Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga met with the media Thursday, he praised MSU for its ability to generate points quickly and compared the Spartans' firepower to the ACC-leading Tar Heels.
Larrañaga was the head coach of the 2006 team at George Mason University. That season he was selected as the Clair Bee National Coach of the Year for taking his team to the Final Four and earned upset wins over MSU, UNC, Wichita State and Connecticut.
"First of all, you have to recognize that Michigan State is a highly disciplined, highly organized machine," Larrañaga said. "Before our season ever began and we started talking about the importance of getting back defensively against any opponent, we used as an example that the University of North Carolina and Michigan State are the two best college basketball programs in the country, that scoring within the first five seconds of their possession, whether you score on them or not."
Led by seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, three of Miami's starting five average double-figure scoring. Guards Bruce Brown and Ja'Quan Newton average 11.9 and 13.4 points a game, respectively, and both average above three rebounds and assists per game. Forward Anthony Lawrence adds 6.9 points to the starting lineup and shoots 42.3 percent from the field, including 36.2 percent from 3-point land.
While the Spartans have their own game plan in tact, Miami will be worried breaking up MSU's offensive tempo.
"They like to rebound the ball," Reed said. "They like to run the ball up the floor in five seconds to get a quick lay-up. They have a ton of set plays on offense. So we'll have to do a good job of taking care of all those things and keeping them off the foul line because they like to get fouled as well."
Head coach Tom Izzo said on Thursday when he met with the media in Tulsa that play from the shooting guards will be exceptionally important. Last time out against the Golden Gophers, MSU scored on 6-of-30 shots on 3-pointers and were held to a season-low 19-for-58 from the field.
Izzo would rather focus on establishing a presence in the post and use favorable matchups to get freshmen forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward valuable touches on the court.
"That was ridiculous on my part," Izzo said. "I did a poor job on that. We thought we had good looks, but Michigan State doesn't take threes. ... I think we've got to get the ball inside and that was the other problems. Most of those threes (against Minnesota) were inside-out threes."