Plenty on the line when Spartans, Shockers play
There might not be a tournament title at stake between Michigan State and Wichita State on the final day of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday, but there still will be plenty to play for when the Spartans and Shockers square off in the 1 p.m. third-place game.
First and foremost could be a place in the national rankings next week, with Michigan State ranked No. 24 and Wichita State receiving 36 votes in this week's poll.
Each team lost in a semifinal on Thursday to a ranked opponent, Michigan State 73-58 to No. 20 Baylor and Wichita State 62-52 to No. 10 Louisville. At stake for the winner is a chance to leave the Bahamas with a 2-1 tournament record and a win over a quality opponent that should enhance an NCAA Tournament resume come March.
Michigan State is 0-for-3 this year in an attempt to earn such an RPI-boosting win in the nonconference season, with losses to Arizona and Kentucky before Thursday's second-half collapse against Baylor.
The Spartans led by 10 points with eight minutes left in the first half and 33-30 at halftime, but were dominated in the second half, getting outscored 43-25 by Baylor.
“I didn't think we competed as hard the second half,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said during his postgame show on the Spartan Sports Network and before knowing Friday's opponent. “I have to determine the reason for that. Was it because of our own abilities? Was it because of our fatigue? Right now, I am tossing a coin. I'm not sure myself. We'll figure it out. We're still growing and we are still getting better.”
Michigan State (3-3) was once again led by freshman Miles Bridges, who leads the team in scoring at over 16 points a game and rebounding at 9.0 points a game.
With big men Gavin Schilling and Greg Carter out until at least the New Year for Michigan State, the Spartans are vulnerable to teams with size such as Baylor, which outrebounded the Spartans, 37-30.
Michigan State beat St. John's in the first round on Wednesday, but seemed to wear down having to play the Baylor game less than 15 hours after the St. John's game ended.
“At least we will have 20-22 hours to prepare, so that will be like a lifetime,” Izzo said.
Wichita State (5-1) recorded an 82-47 rout of LSU in the first round, but suffered its first loss of the season against Louisville, shooting just 31.6 percent from the field (18 of 57) and getting outrebounded by a 46-33 margin.
The Shockers had trouble with Louisville's length inside and matchup zone, issues that might not be as big of a problem against Michigan State because of how much smaller the Spartans are.
“We didn't attack it very well,” Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said in the Wichita Eagle. “We didn't get the ball inside enough. When we did we were fairly effective. You've got to make the zone collapse.”
Sophomore forward Markis McDuffie (11.8 ppg.) and junior forward Darral Willis, Jr. (11.0 ppg) are the only players this year averaging in double-figures scoring wise for the Shockers.