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NCAA Basketball ACC BasketballBig 10 BasketballMarch MadnessMichigan State SpartansVirginia Cavaliers

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 4 Michigan State vs No. 1 Virginia

Michigan State

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The struggles of the No. 4 seed Michigan State Spartans seem like a thing of the past — or at least they had been until the second half of their game against the No. 12 seed Harvard Crimson in the third round on Saturday evening. Tom Izzo will surely have his team ready for the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers on Friday evening.

Michigan State has won five consecutive games after ending the season with just five wins in its final 12 games. The Spartans quickly got it together in the Big Ten Tournament, winning three games in three days to come home with the conference tournament crown.

Virginia, on the other hand, has been red-hot all season long and it seems like this team is built to last. Winning both the regular season and conference tournament title, the Cavaliers are one of the most dangerous teams in college basketball.

This game could be the best in the Sweet 16. Michigan State has a solid offense and an above average defense while the Cavaliers are a strict defensive team — and one of the best in the nation.

What to watch for

Branden Dawson is coming off the best game of his career against Harvard, scoring 26 points on 12/15 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. If he can remain hot along with Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, the Spartans’ three-headed monster will be tough to beat.

Virginia will be fine if Joe Harris keeps playing like he has been through the team’s first two games. Also, Anthony Gill is a huge X-factor off the bench.

It will be interesting to see who will match up with Payne and Dawson for Michigan State and if Virginia can slow down the high-powered Spartan offense.

Prediction

Michigan State will have its hands full with the best defensive squad it has faced all year long, but Izzo has been planning for a matchup like this for quite some time. Although Virginia has had quite the impressive season in the ACC, the first three rounds of the tourney have shown that the ACC has not been as solid as believed at the start of the season.

Michigan State has a streak of getting every four-year starter to the Final Four under Tom Izzo. Don’t expect that run to end here. Payne, Harris and Dawson will cause too much of a mismatch.

Michigan State 67, Virginia 61

Connor Muldowney is the Content Associate for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at connor.muldowney@rantsports.com.