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Michigan State and Virginia collide in Friday's Sweet 16
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 3/28/2014  at  4:45:00 AM
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MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (28-8)

vs. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (30-6)

NCAA Tournament - Sweet 16
Madison Square Garden - New York City
Tip-off: Friday, 9:55 p.m. EST
Line: Michigan State -1.5, Total: 126.5

Fourth-seeded Michigan State enters its Sweet 16 matchup against No. 1 seed Virginia as a slight favorite to advance to the Elite Eight.

Here is the Bet DSI breakdown on the entire Sweet 16:

The Spartans enter this one having won five straight SU, going 3-1-1 ATS in that span, but are 0-1-1 ATS in the tournament in their wins against Delaware and Harvard. Now at full strength—a rare occasion for this team this season—Michigan State is 21-13-1 ATS despite a 6-7-1 ATS mark against non-conference opponents. They are 9-1 SU and 5-4-1 ATS on neutral courts. While the Spartans are a trendy pundit pick, the Cavaliers are tough to shake, having won 18 of their past 19 games, taking the ACC regular season and tournament titles in the process. This run has improved Virginia to a stellar 20-11-1 ATS on the season, but the Cavaliers have had their struggles in non-conference play, now 4-7 ATS (11-4 SU) against non-conference foes following a 1-1 ATS start to the NCAA Tournament in wins against Coastal Carolina and Memphis. These two programs last met in 2002 when Michigan State won and covered 82-75. While Michigan State is a stellar 11-2 ATS versus bad pressure defensive teams (12 or fewer forced TO per game) this season, Virginia has a rare 6-star FoxSheets trend, going 10-0 ATS after 15+ games this season versus teams making at least 45% FG.

Which school will move on to the Elite Eight? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts opened the NCAA Tournament with a sizzling 62% ATS mark (46-28-1) through the Round of 32, making them a stellar 60% ATS (322-218-17) in college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Brian is on an amazing Best Bets run of 33-9-2 (79% ATS) since Feb. 6 and 42-12-3 (78% ATS) since Jan. 17, to give him a robust 69% ATS (74-33-4) record in Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is a phenomenal 80% ATS (12-3) in Best Bets for the NCAA Tournament, making him 66% ATS (51-26-1) in Best Bets since Dec. 18 and 62% ATS (68-41-2) this season. StatFox Scott is a strong 64% ATS (9-5-1) in Best Bets for the NCAA Tournament, 66% ATS (23-12-3) since Feb. 16 and 59% ATS (63-44-5) for the season. StatFox Gary is 59% ATS (58-40) on Best Bets since Nov. 22 and 56% ATS (62-48-2) for the season.

Michigan State’s unselfish offense with 17.0 APG (6th in Div. I) averages 76.5 PPG (45th in Div. I) on 47.7% shooting (22nd in nation) and 39.3% threes (16th in Div. I). Per usual, Tom Izzo’s defense is stingy, yielding only 65.9 PPG (66th in nation) on 40.0% FG (24th in Div. I). This is also a top-notch rebounding team with a +5.4 RPG margin (21st in nation). Their star so far in the NCAA Tournament has been senior PF Adreian Payne (16.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG), who put up a whopping 41 points in the team’s opening round win against Delaware. The 6-foot-10 big man is a good shooter too (44% threes), but can also bruise down low with his 245-pound frame. While Payne came back down to earth against Harvard on Sunday with a mere 12 points, SF Branden Dawson (11.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG), who leads the team in rebounding, stepped up with a 26-point performance on 12-of-15 shooting. The team's leading scorer is SG Gary Harris (16.9 PPG), who is as athletic as they come, which shows on the defensive end where he averages 1.9 SPG. SG Travis Trice (7.6 PPG, 45% threes) joins him as a sharpshooter in the backcourt while SG Denzel Valentine (8.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.9 APG) makes up for his poor shooting with his passing and rebounding abilities. The key to whether this team can seriously contend though, may be the performance of PG Keith Appling (11.7 PPG, 4.6 APG). The senior must improve from his play in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 3.0 PPG on 33% shooting so far.

Virginia’s offense can be tough to watch but the team features the top scoring defense in the nation at 55.5 PPG, with opponents hitting only 38.6% FG (9th in Div. I). The team's slow play hurts its offensive numbers, scoring only 66.4 PPG (280th in nation) on 45.7% shooting (94th in Div. I), but it does make 37.0% threes (69th in nation) and commits a paltry 10.1 turnovers per game (20th in Div. I). The Cavaliers are also an excellent rebounding team with a +6.2 RPG margin, good for 15th in the nation. Sophomore SG Malcolm Brogdon (12.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG) is the team’s top scorer and is averaging 12.0 PPG and 4.5 APG through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. But last season's leading scorer, SG Joe Harris (11.8 PPG, 41% threes) led the team to the Sweet 16 with a 16-point performance in Sunday's Round of 32 win against Memphis. He has hit at least two three-point baskets in five consecutive games. Their biggest surprise offensively lately has been SF Anthony Gill (8.8 PPG 4.1 RPG), who has reached double figures in six consecutive games, averaging 13.8 PPG in that span. He also grabbed a team-high eight boards against Memphis. Gill is joined down low by PF Akil Mitchell (6.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG), who doesn’t take many shots, but is efficient with the ones he takes (57.2% FG). This includes his incredible 81.3% FG clip in the team’s past five contests. Opposing teams also can’t ignore PG London Perrantes (5.4 PPG, 3.8 APG), who is mostly a passer, but hits one three per game on a 44% clip. He can capitalize if given the opportunity, as he has shown this tournament with 10.0 PPG on 63% shooting from long distance.

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