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Preview: Valparaiso vs. Michigan State

Preview: Valparaiso vs. Michigan State

Playing in the Big Ten conference, Michigan State didn't have to look far to find stiff competition. When the Spartans make their 16th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, they won't have to travel too far to find their next opponent, either. Third-seeded Michigan State will make the trek to The Palace of Auburn Hills, where they'll face 14th-seeded Valparaiso on Thursday in the second round of the Midwest Region.

The Spartans recorded 25 wins and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament before being bounced by eventual champion Ohio State on Saturday. With the conference sending seven representatives to the Big Dance, one can easily see why coach Tom Izzo believes his team is battle-tested. "I'd play the (Los Angeles) Lakers tomorrow instead of some of the teams I've played recently," Izzo said moments after Michigan State dropped a 61-58 decision to the Buckeyes.

TV: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS

ABOUT VALPARAISO (26-7): The Crusaders are making their eighth trip to the NCAA tournament after posting a 62-54 victory over Wright State in the conference championship. Senior forward Ryan Broekhoff (15.9 points, 7.3 rebounds) had a big hand in getting Valparaiso to the title game after sinking a buzzer-beating shot against Green Bay in the semifinals. Perhaps a last-second victory is nothing new for the Crusaders, considering that their coach (Bryce Drew) made a memorable shot to defeat Ole Miss in a first-round game in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Valparaiso gave fellow Big Ten member Nebraska a tough go before dropping a 50-48 decision on Nov. 15.

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (25-8): Derrick Nix is putting his best foot forward as he's faced with the possibility of playing his last collegiate game. The senior forward matched his Big Ten-scoring high by collecting 17 points and nine rebounds against Ohio State. With Nix using his 6-9, 270-pound frame to attack the interior, sharpshooters Keith Appling (team-leading 13.6 points) and freshman Gary Harris (41.3 percent from 3-point range) are free to exploit the perimeter. Harris, however, struggled with a 1-for-7 effort from the floor versus the Buckeyes.

TIP-INS

  1. Valparaiso served as Michigan State's first-round opponent in 2000. Mateen Cleaves had 15 points as the Spartans breezed to a 65-38 triumph in that contest en route to winning the national championship.

  2. Sixth-seeded Memphis (30-4) will face the winner of play-in combatants Middle Tennessee (28-5) and Saint Mary's (27-6). The victor of that contest will face either Michigan State or Valparaiso.

  3. The last time the Spartans were a No. 3 seed, they fell to upstart Weber State in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 72, Valparaiso 58