Kansas State vs. Michigan State NCAA Tournament Preview and Prediction
Here is everything you need to know about the Kansas State Wildcats and the Michigan State Spartans in our NCAA Tournament men’s basketball preview and prediction.
East Region – Sweet 16
Game Info: 5:30 p.m. CT, Thursday, TBS
How They Got Here: Kansas State took down the Kentucky Wildcats in an offensive clinic from Markquis Nowell while Michigan State spoiled many fans’ brackets with a victory over two-seed Marquette.
Winner gets: A fourth-round game against the winner of the game between No. 4 Tennesee and No. 9 Florida Atlantic.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
Kansas State: G Markquis Nowell, G Cam Carter, G Desi Sills, F Keyontae Johnson, F Nae’Quan Tomlin
Michigan State: G Tyson Walker, G Jaden Akins, G A.J. Hoggard, F Joey Hauser, C Mady Sissoko
PLAYER TO WATCH
F Nae’Quan Tomlin: Kansas State hasn’t been much of a defensive team this season as they gave up the most points per game during the regular season, however, when tasked with defending Kentucky’s rebounding machine Oscar Tshiebwe, the group favored admirably. The combination of Nae’Quan Tomlin, David N’Guessan, and Abayomi Iyiola stepped up and contested for the duration of the game. Tomlin scored 12 points and six rebounding including an alley-oop pass from Markquis Nowell to end the half up by three. Tomlin was a load to deal with in the round of 32, and in games where Tomlin logs 33 minutes or better, the Wildcats are a perfect 6-0 this season. As the third member of K-State’s big three, I like Tomlin to step up again against the Spartans.
G Tyson Walker: Michigan State is an incredibly intriguing team as they aren’t dominated by one scorer standing above the rest. four of the five starters for the Spartans average 9.6 PPG or better which shows the depth and versatility that this team has. While this March Madness run has seen F Joey Hauser carry the banner, Tyson Walker had a massive day against Marquette which helped the Spartans to advance. The guard from Westbury, New York scored 23 points on 47.1% shooting from the field as well as adding a pair of rebounds and assists to the mix. The senior guard is averaging 15.8 PPG over his last five outings and with the surging Wildcats on the schedule, the Spartans will need another big game from Walker and company. Fun Fact: Tyson Walker hasn’t committed a turnover in 67 straight minutes of basketball.
Welcome home Wildcats! One of the major storylines for the Wildcats is their grand return to New York. K-State has four players from New York who are getting their opportunity to play at home, in front of their friends and families at Madison Square Garden. The group includes Tykei Greene from Queens, Nae’Quan Tomlin, Ismael Massoud, and Markquis Nowell all from Harlem. Nowell, who hasn’t been home in three years because he’s been so committed to his basketball career, spending every day in the gym including Christmas and his birthday, has an opportunity to continue his Kemba Walker-Esq run at one of the biggest venues in sports. Just in case you didn’t know his nickname by now, Mr. New York City returns home on Thursday. While this storyline is going to be an emotional moment for the players above, the Wildcats should have a bit more of a home crowd at MSG, and when the Wildcats played at home this season, they were 16-1 in the little apple.
Kansas State had to take on John Calipari on Sunday, and Tom Izzo on Thursday. Yikes. Tom Izzo is well in the conversation for greatest coach of all time, especially in March, and with 27 seasons of experience, Izzo has another opportunity to advance. The Spartans, while less flashy than years past, are a scrappy, hard-nosed team that regardless of seeding, anyone should be worried about. Tom Izzo’s track record speaks for itself, as this marks his 15th trip to the Sweet 16 and for Jerome Tang as a head coach, this is his first Sweet 16 appearance. Tang did win the title in 2021 with Baylor but as far as head coaching goes, this is a new experience for him. This game marks Jerome Tang’s third NCAA Tournament game while Thursday marks Izzo’s 79th. There is a clear difference in experience here despite Tang’s outstanding season so far.
KANSAS STATE 79, MICHIGAN STATE 73
While a six-point win may sound like too large of a gap, with Kansas State’s free throw shooting and high-flying offense, the points don’t worry me. I think Jerome Tang said it best last week; dudes. That’s the difference in my eyes in this game. I was worried about the matchup for the Wildcats last week against Kentucky, but Michigan State on paper doesn’t match up as well with Kansas State. The Spartans have veteran guards which is a good recipe but I think that K-State’s defensive domination is something we’re going to see continue on Thursday. The gameplan that Tang and Co. came up with for Kentucky worked wonders and I like that to continue against Michigan State. For the Spartans to win this game, Tyson Walker will have to continue to take care of the basketball and score points in transition against KSU but I like the Wildcats’ run for the history books to continue.