Heavy Public Betting on Texas Tonight as They Face The Spartans
Both teams figure to get their first test Thursday when they square off in the semifinals of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The winner plays either St. John’s or Maryland in the championship Friday. The loser is relegated to the third-place contest.
The 19th-ranked Longhorns (2-0) breezed through their regional, winning both games at home by a combined 85 points. After beating Alcorn State 103-44, the ninth-largest margin of victory in school history, Texas crushed Chicago State 92-66 to win the Austin Regional and advance to New York.
The Longhorns, a very young team that starts three freshmen and two sophomores, has had no trouble adjusting to whatever opponents throw at them.
Michigan State (3-0) figures to be a much tougher test.
“We have to work on our post defense and rebounding,” Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said. “I think we are going to shoot the ball well every night and the nights that we can’t, we have to continue to develop a post game on the other end.”
The Spartans have allowed only 45.3 points per game in their three wins. They beat Brown 45-34 in their season opener before defeating Youngstown State 86-61 to win their respective regional.
Michigan State also beat The Citadel 73-41 in a nonconference game Sunday.
The Spartans, like the Longhorns, are a young team with a junior, three sophomores and a freshman comprising their starting five.
“We’re similar, but different,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said when comparing his team to Texas. “It’s a great test for us. We’re going to be playing a team with as much athleticism as any team we’ve played in a long time.”
The Longhorns feature one of the best freshmen classes in the country, led by 6-foot-9 forward Kevin Durant, considered one of the nation’s top recruits last year.
Had the NBA not instituted an age minimum this season, Durant would have been a likely lottery pick in the NBA draft. Instead, he’s averaged 20.5 points in his first two college games and had 21 points and 13 rebounds against Chicago State for his first double-double.
He also blocked five shots, showing the athleticism that has Izzo concerned.
“He can go outside, he can shoot 3-pointers,” Izzo said. “He’s thin, active, athletic and very good with the ball.”
Michigan State will also have to concern itself with A.J. Abrams, who was the Longhorns leading returning scorer. He had a career-high 28 points against Chicago State, making 8 of 11 3-pointers.
“I think teams will have to change their scouting report a little to try and defend me,” said Abrams, who averaged 6.4 points last season. “I will be counted on to score more.”
Despite their double-digit victory over The Citadel, the Spartans weren’t eager to heap praise on themselves.
“If we play like this in New York, you guys will have a lot of time to hit the nightlife, because you won’t have to write much,” Izzo said to the media. “We have to improve drastically in the next couple of days.”
The Citadel had 16 offensive rebounds, although Michigan State outscored the Bulldogs 44-20 in the second half.
Texas has won the previous two meetings between the teams, including an 85-76 win in a 2003 NCAA Tournament regional final that sent the Longhorns to the Final Four for the first time since 1947.
by: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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