Don’t Sleep on Sparty
It’s finally here!
We hope you’ve already called into work and figured out how to watch TruTV, because one of the best weekends on the sports calendar is upon us. And for those of you waiting until the last second to fill out your bracket, Jeff Goodman writes in today’s newsletter about a seven-seed who has a legit shot to reach the Final Four.
The NCAA Tournament started Tuesday night, but it REALLY begins today with 16 games. The favorites this season are Houston and Alabama, but one team that you shouldn’t sleep on is Michigan State.
Because of the coach, guard play and experience. Those are the most important factors in March.
The Spartans have a guy named Tom Izzo at the helm. He’s made eight Final Four appearances in his career, has gone to a record 25 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and has taken less talented teams to the final weekend.
Izzo has veteran guards in Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard. Walker struggled a year ago after transferring to East Lansing from Northeastern, but he’s thrived this season with a year under his belt in the program, averaging 14.6 points per game. Walker is one of those few guys who can just make a play with the ball in his hands. He can score by getting to the basket, and he’s also one of the best perimeter shooters in the country, making 42 percent from 3.
Hoggard isn’t quite as reliable, but he averaged 12.5 points per game and ranks in the top 10 nationally in assists per game. Then add in a healthy Jaden Akins, who averaged 9.8 points per game in league play and shot 42 percent from 3.
Joey Hauser is in his fifth year of college and is a stretch forward who is having the best season of his career. He’s another guy on the court who can make shots from long range (46 percent from 3), and Malik Hall battled injuries earlier this season but is yet another veteran in the program who can contribute.
Is this Izzo’s most talented team? Heck no. But no one does more with less, especially this time of year.
So don’t sleep on Sparty.
It’s almost four years ago to the day. On March 24, 2019, Nate Oats got a phone call. His six-seed Buffalo team had just gotten knocked out of the NCAA Tournament after a dream season in which they went 32-4, easily the best season in school history. The call was from Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director.
Four years after Oats took the job as Alabama’s head basketball coach, his work has come to fruition. The Crimson Tide aren’t just a No. 1 seed — they’re the No. 1 seed in the whole tournament. They have four McDonald’s All-Americans, including Brandon Miller, one of the best players in the country this season.
But it’s been anything but easy for Oats and Alabama. Earlier this year, a member of the team was charged with capital murder. The crime hung like a dark cloud over the program all season long as more information was released.
But on the court, Alabama is better than ever. Oats talks about how the team came together following the tragedy and explains why this group of players is a National Champion in the making in this exclusive sit-down with Jeff Goodman.
WATCH: One-on-One With Nate Oats
Beat the Odds
And finally… we’re just gonna put this here.
On “Live on the Line,” we’ve been talking NCAA tourney all week. Obviously. And in a few short days, our hosts managed to cover every first-round game in the tournament from a betting perspective.
Looking to place a few bets on this weekend’s tournament action? Click here for betting analysis on every game. You can thank us later.
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