Michigan State pushed the -2 line Friday night when Gary Harris opted to miss the last free throw with less than two seconds to go instead of putting it in and giving UVA a chance to inbound. It’s tough to ever call a push a tough result, but that one left a sour taste in the mouth. The good news is that Dayton covered with the hook tonight and I’m going right back to the Spartan well for Sunday. Michigan State will take on UConn at Madison Square Garden for the right to go to the Final Four. Tom Izzo’s team is a 5.5-point favorite.
I’ve loved Michigan State since day one of the regular season, but I especially love them in this spot because of Shabazz Napier. That might sound odd, but it just really doesn’t look like the senior star is anywhere close to 100 percent. Napier tweaked his knee late in the Huskies’ Sweet 16 win against Villanova. He did return in the game to finish things out at the line but he wasn’t really able to make anything close to an explosive movement. And after being prescribed as “fine” all week ahead of UConn’s matchup with Iowa State, Napier didn’t seem to be much better against the ‘Clones. Yes, he put up numbers, which is a truly poor reflection on one of the better coaches in college basketball in Fred Hoiberg. But watch the game tape – Napier can’t drive hard. He can’t cut hard. And he can’t do most of the amazing things we’re all numb to seeing Shabazz do by now. But he can still shoot and he is still as competitive as ever.
I’m banking on Izzo taking note and forcing Napier to drive by the Spartan defense and finish over a bigger defender. And my guess is that he won’t be able to do it. Even if Napier was at full strength, the Spartans are still just too strong – the spread would just be a little trickier. The Huskies don’t have a player to matchup with Adreian Payne, who is simply hungrier than any player left in the Tournament. Lock this one in and feel pretty good about it.
Free Pick: Michigan State -5.5