Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness - #7 Michigan State vs. #3 Kansas State (3/23/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: March Madness – #7 Michigan State vs. #3 Kansas State (3/23/2023)

By TakingVegas Staff Writer
March 21, 2023

#7 Michigan State Spartans vs #3 Kansas State Wildcats (3/23 @ 6:30 PM EST)

Spread: Michigan State -2
Moneyline: Michigan State -135 / Kansas State +115
Total: 137.5

Overview and Billing Info

The #7 Michigan State Spartans (21-12) will take on the #3 Kansas State Wildcats (25-9) in Madison Square Garden on Friday night for a spot in the Elite 8. The Spartans finished fourth in the Big Ten, while the Wildcats finished third in the Big 12. These teams did not meet in the regular season.

Michigan State is 17-16 against the spread this season and have covered three of their last five games. They have gone over the total 16 times but have gone under in their last three games.

Kansas State is 23-11 versus the spread and have covered six of their last eight games. They have gone over the total 18 times including in four of their last five games.

Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 after defeating #10 USC and #2 Marquette. It was an impressive opening weekend, especially since the Spartans lost to lowly Ohio State in their first game in the Big Ten Tournament. Many expected them to lose early in the NCAA Tournament due to their lackluster season. While they have a few quality wins, they went 5-8 against tournament teams during the regular season. However, the Spartans have looked fantastic in both of their games so far. Their win over Marquette was among the most impressive in this year’s March Madness, as they dominated the game from the opening tip. Now they’ll face a Kansas State team that finished third in the country’s most challenging conference.

Michigan State’s stats this season are less than impressive. On offense, they finished eighth in scoring (70.2 PPG), seventh in field goal percentage (45.1%), and sixth in assists (14.5 APG). Their saving grace has been the three-point shot, where they are eighth in the country by making 38.7% of his attempts. Their defense was also an issue, ranking sixth in opponent scoring (67.0 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (41.9%), fifth in three-point percentage (31.9%), and eighth in rebounds (35.6 RPG). One crucial stat they do well is free throws. They led the Big Ten by making 75.7% of their attempts. That was a significant factor in their win over Marquette, as they went 19-23 from the charity stripe (82.6%).

The Spartans are led by a trio of Tyson Walker (14.8 PPG, 1.2 SPG, 40.7 3P%), Joey Hauser (14.3, 7.1, 46.2 3P%), and AJ Hoggard (12.5 PPG, 5.9 APG). Walker is the Spartans’ top offensive threat, averaging 19 points over their last seven games. That includes a 23-point performance against Marquette on Sunday, where he made 47.1% of his shots, none of which were from three. Hauser is the Spartans’ hottest scorer, averaging 17.2 points over their last ten games. He has been fantastic in their two tournament games, with 31 points and 18 rebounds combined. Much of his success comes from his three-point shot, the sixth-best percentage in the Big Ten. Hoggard is a solid point guard, ranking fifth in the conference in assists. He is also a solid defender and a reliable shooter, making over 49% of his shots in the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas State Wildcats

The Wildcats entered as an overlooked three-seed, despite finishing third in the elite Big 12 conference. They efficiently handled #14 Montana State and survived #6 Kentucky’s best shot. While Kentucky was the lower seed, they played well enough to get the win. Kansas State’s ability to stifle any rally attempts down the stretch shows how tough this team is. They went 8-6 against tournament teams this season, with impressive wins against Kansas, Texas, TCU, and Baylor (twice).

The Wildcats finished towards the middle of the pack in most statistical categories in the ultra-competitive Big 12. On offense, they rank fourth in scoring (75.5 PPG), fifth in field goal percentage (45.8%), seventh in three-point percentage (33.6%), and first in assists (16.8 APG). On defense, Kansas State was seventh in opponent scoring (68.9 PPG), fifth in field goal percentage (42.0%), and first in three-point percentage (29.7% – 15th in NCAA). One area of concern has been turnovers, as the Wildcats were ninth in the Big 12 with 14.1 per game. They only had eight against Kentucky and were able to force 16, which was a big reason for their win.

Kansas State has been led by Keyontae Johnson (17.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 51.4 FG%, 40.5 3P%), Markquis Nowell (17.1 PPG, 7.8 APG, 2.4 SPG, 35.1 3P%), and Nae’Qwan Tomlin (10.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 50.0 FG%). Johnson is one of the country’s most dangerous scorers. He is second in the Big 12 in scoring and fifth in field goal percentage and rebounding. He had an off night against Kentucky, where he made less than 46% of his shots for the first time in nine games. He had a couple poor shooting nights during the season but usually would bounce back with a great percentage the following game. Nowell had an incredible game against Kentucky which was a big reason for their win at the end. He finished with 27 points, a 50% field goal percentage, nine assists, and three steals. Tomlin is a great big man with 25 points and five blocks in their two tournament games. His scoring is inconsistent, but he has been in double-digits in four of his last five games (12.0 PPG). While he doesn’t shoot often, he makes over half of his attempts when he does. In fact, he has not had a field goal percentage under 50% since Feb 7.

Free Pick: Kansas State ML +115

Michigan State had a great opening weekend, but that will end on Thursday. The Spartan’s offense is not very good and rely three get wins. Expect that to be neutralized against a Kansas State team that is one of the best in the country at defending the shot. Powell will be challenged against an MSU team that shut down Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, but Johnson will be a big problem that will rattle this Spartan’s team. Turnovers are a concern for KSU, but MSU doesn’t force many and the Wildcats did a good job limiting them in their last game against Kentucky.

We aren’t sold on Michigan State being anywhere near Kansas State’s level. The Wildcats have incredible wins this season over teams among the top three seeds. Michigan State was impressive against Marquette, but that is a young team that was vulnerable. Now, they will face a team led by two seniors and a junior that have been here before. There is nothing from MSU’s resume that makes us think they will be able to get the win on Thursday.

That experience, plus their talent advantage, is why we are all over the Kansas State moneyline. 

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