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Can the Bradley Braves pull off a shocking upset as a 15 seed? That’s what they’ll be trying to do here as they square off with the second-seeded Michigan State Spartans. Both teams won their conference tournaments, as Michigan State is coming off a thrilling Big Ten Tournament win over Michigan, while Bradley fended off Northern Iowa for the MVC Crown. Oddsmakers have the Spartans as 18.5 point favorites here for this one, but Bradley will surely have something to say about that. It’ll be televised on CBS.
I’ve been very intrigued by this Bradley team all year. Ever since they beat a very good Penn State team that finished top 40 on Kenpom, I knew they had the ability to play very well. Given their potential, I was very happy when they emerged from the MVC Tournament.
They did so by grinding out games against Missouri State, Loyola Chicago, and Northern Iowa. All three games were very close, and the Braves showed a lot of resolve in gutting all of them out. The back to back to back down to the wire games will be great for them here, as they taught this Bradley team how to deal with the high-pressure situations you see so many of in March. The Braves have covered four of their last five games, and have covered five straight games on neutral courts. They showed in their wins over SMU and Penn State this year that they can more than hang with teams from bigger conferences.
🔊🔊 Darrell Brown discusses his 29-point effort and Bradley's win at Northern Iowa on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/77KYMyMOMv
— Bradley Basketball (@bradleyumbb) February 7, 2019
To get to this point, they had to beat a team in Loyola Chicago that made the Final Four just last year. The Missouri Valley is a very formidable conference, and the Spartans shouldn’t be taking them lightly. Bradley didn’t lose a single game this season by more than 18 points, so I wouldn’t necessarily count on them being blown out here. If they’ve made one thing clear it’s that they have a lot of fight, and they aren’t going to go down quietly. We could have a live dog here.
The game is being played in Des Moines, Iowa, not far from Bradley’s home base in Illinois. Bradley coach Brian Wardle thinks that gives the Braves an advantage:
“We knew our ‘quad four’ record probably wasn’t as strong as it should have been. So, we thought we’d be anywhere between 14 and 15. But, to play in Des Moines, Iowa though, that was huge. We wanted to play there, because we knew our Bradley fans would be able to travel there,” he explained.
Michigan State Wins B1G
Michigan State is a true blue-blood program, and they demonstrated that once again this year. The ride was bumpy at times, as they had to replace several huge contributors from last year’s team like Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges.
But they found a way, and they ended up winning the Big Ten Tournament yet again on the back of Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston. While they have a lot of talent and could be poised for a deep NCAA Tournament run, I’m not convinced they’ll be able to cover this lofty spread. They haven’t been good at covering these big numbers in past go rounds, as they’re just 1-5 against the spread in their last six NCAA Tournament games.
Another pretty good one: Tom Izzo getting win No. 600.
— Michigan St. on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) March 21, 2019
Another downgrade for the Spartans is the fact that they’re going to be without junior Kyle Ahrens for this one. Ahrens isn’t the most important player on the team by any means, but he’s a valuable role player. Ahrens went down in the Big Ten title game and is averaging nearly 19 minutes a game. It might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s a big blow to the Spartans’ depth and will come back to haunt them if they get in foul trouble or suffer another injury. They’ve only won two games by more than 18 points since conference play started. The Spartans will be advancing to the next round, but I don’t think it’ll be by some huge margin.
While Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he thinks the team got a little boost from their conference tournament win, he isn’t letting things go to their head
There’s some momentum you gain from that,” Izzo said, “The one thing I don’t have — and I don’t really worry about it much in my program — we play such a good schedule every year I’ve been there. And usually, we get the brains beat out of us by a couple of people, so that big ego and thinking that we’re better than we are (evaporates). Indiana didn’t make the tournament and beat us twice, so we’re cool with cocky and confident.” he explained.
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall
- 5-0 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games
- 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up win
- 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I like the Braves a lot here. Nobody is expecting Bradley to be competitive here, but there’s some value on the dog. MSU isn’t great at covering these huge numbers, and Bradley is one of the more scrappy teams out there that can hang around for a while. Bradley isn’t going to win outright, but they’ll cover this number fairly easily.
Prediction: Bradley +18.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I’m also playing the under here. Bradley’s defense is what won them the MVC Tournament, and the under is 5-1 in their last six games. They don’t have much of an offense, and won’t be able to score here against these MSU athletes. MSU will be content to play things slowly and feel out Bradley at first, which means this should be pretty low scoring.