Slight Edge to Sparty in 8-9 Midwest Region Game vs. Hurricanes

michigan state basketball

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:37 PM GMT

Defense is expected to reign supreme when the Midwest Region's No. 8 Miami (Fla.) and No. 9 Michigan State clash in the on Friday (9:20 p.m. ET) in Tulsa. Look for the dog to bite in this tight matchup.

No. 8 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 9 Michigan State

Midwest Region, Tulsa, Friday, 9:20 p.m. ET

NAT TV: TNT

It’s logical that 8-9 first-round matchups are the betting market’s tightest wagers to open March Madness. Eight seeds are just 35-29 SU and 32-30-2 ATS in the last 15 years. Since 2009, underdogs have paid handsomely, going 20-10-2 ATS overall. Will Michigan State add to the trend? The Spartans opened as 2-point pups on Sunday with early adjustments going in favor of Miami, the line down to -2.5 48 hours from tip-off.

Head coach Tom Izzo’s young Spartans experienced some growing pains in 2016-17, going 19-14 SU and 17-15 ATS. They were selected No. 12 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, but slipped out of the rankings for the entire year following losses to Arizona (65-63) and Kentucky (69-48) in the first two games. In fact, nearly half of Michigan State’s defeats came via ranked opponents, slumping to a 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS record against. Against non-ranked foes, Izzo’s bunch was 18-8 SU, covering the spread in every victory in which it played with a single-digit line.

Head coach Jim Larrañaga led Miami (21-11 SU, 11-19 ATS) to a season-high No. 25 in the AP Poll in the final week of February, but dropped out after one week with consecutive road losses at Virginia Tech (66-61) and rival Florida State (66-57). Overall, the Canes were just 10-10 SU and ATS in games with a single-digit line, tipping off a pick'em on average. Defense is the team’s strength, ranking 20th in Kenpom’s adjusted efficiency stats nationally.

Larrañaga and the ‘Canes reportedly feel slighted after analyst Seth Davis predicted Michigan State would likely face Kansas in the second round during the CBS Selection Show. Look for the team to use this as motivation, embracing an underdog mentality despite tagged as a short-priced favorite to win. Nonetheless, Davis may be on to something.

Larrañaga’s offense went south in the final games of the season, averaging 57.0 points on 39.7 percent shooting in its last six. Cold-shooting teams tend to meet their master against Izzo in tournament play. The Spartans held their final three opponents, including Maryland in the regular-season finale, and Penn State and Minnesota in the Big Ten championship, to 10.8, 15.0, and 6.2 points below their projected team totals. Overall, the defense stymied the trio for an average of 59.0 points per game on 37.3 percent form the floor.

Look for a similar defensive masterpiece in this matchup. Michigan State on the moneyline is the free pick. Lean the 'under' in this one, too. It went 18-5-1 and stayed 7.2 points below the total when the ‘Canes tipped off against a team with an average margin of victory over 2.5 points. The Spartans enter with a 3.4 differential.

NCAAB Free Pick: Michigan State +120

Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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