Michigan State vs Marquette scouting report

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan State’s NCAA Tournament Round of 32 matchup against Marquette.

NCAA Tournament

No. 7 seed Michigan State vs. No. 2 seed Marquette

Tips: 5:15 Sunday, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

TV/radio: CBS/WJR 760

Records: Michigan State 20-12; Marquette 29-6

Line: Marquette by 2.5 points

Key matchup


It is strength upon strength. Good on good. With the Spartans and Golden Eagles clinching the right to advance to the Sweet 16, the matchup between the backcourts will draw the most attention and will likely decide which team advances.

The Spartans will start a three-guard offense with AJ Hoggard running the point while Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins are his running mates. Hoggard is the catalyst for it all and turned in a complete performance in the win over Southern Cal, scoring 11 points and dishing out five assists while helping lock down USC’s Drew Peterson. Walker, the Spartans’ leading scorer at 14.5 points a game, has the ability to break out, scoring 30 or more points twice this season while Akins has been on fire down the stretch, scoring in double figures in each of the last five games. They also happen to be Michigan State’s two best perimeter defenders.

They will have their hands full with Marquette’s Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones. Jones is a sophomore who leads the Golden Eagles in scoring with 15.1 points per game and scored 18 straight in the win over Vermont, while Kolek is the Big East Player of the Year and is averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 assists.

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The margin is razor sharp between the backcourts, with Marquette forcing more turnovers, but Michigan State is the better 3-point shooting team, making 39.4% from 3-pointers (fourth best in the nation) while Marquette allows 35.1% (253)rd in the nation).

Golden Eagles to watch

Tyler Kolek, G: The sophomore was named the Big East Player of the Year this season, becoming the fourth player in Marquette history to earn the honor. He is also a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard, and on the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Award. Averaging nearly eight assists per game, Kolek has dished out 10 or more helpers eight times this season, including 34 in a three-game stretch against DePaul, Butler and St. John’s. He is also a 39.8% 3-point shooter and has shot 45.7% over the last 10 games.

Kam Jones, G: The sophomore is Marquette’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game and scored 19 in the win over Vermont, reeling off 18 straight at one point to help the Golden Eagles pull away. A member of the All-Big East second team, Jones has made 96 of his 269 attempts from 3-point range, good for 35.7%. He’s streaky, to be sure, as his seven 3-pointers this season against St. John’s prove, as well as his second half against Vermont.

David Joplin, F: The sophomore was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 9.2 points and shooting 39.6% from 3-point range. In Friday’s win over Vermont, Joplin scored 12 points and recorded his third straight double-digit scoring game while dishing out three assists and grabbing two rebounds in 27 minutes. Coming off the bench, Joplin has the ability to quickly change a game, as he did this season against DePaul when he scored 28 on 10-for-14 shooting, and last week against UConn when he scored 17 while making four of five 3-pointers.

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Facts and figures

▶ The Golden Eagles have won 10 in a row and they have been able to string together the wins by getting it done in close games. Five of the 10 games have been decided by two points or fewer, including the first two in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. For the season, Marquette is 6-2 in one-possession games.

▶It’s not an official stat, but Marquette keeps track of deflections on defense as part of a focus on making life difficult for opponents, and the Golden Eagles get their share. Entering Sunday’s game, Marquette has 1,202 deflections as a team with Tyler Kolek (204) and Stevie Mitchell (204) currently tied for the team lead. The Golden Eagles also rank sixth in the nation in steals per game (9.3) and the team’s plus-5.3 turnover margin is also third in the nation.

▶Michigan State and Marquette share four common opponents this season, with both beating Villanova and both losing to Purdue – the Spartans twice and the Golden Eagles once. Each played Notre Dame with Marquette winning and Michigan State losing while each played Wisconsin with Michigan State winning and Marquette losing. The Golden Eagles have also faced seven teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament, going 8-5 in those games.

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Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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