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March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (1) Virginia vs. (4) Michigan State

A preview of Virginia and Michigan State’s Sweet 16 matchup and an opportunity to vote on who you think will win!

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Virginia Cavaliers
After a shaky opening round game against Coastal Carolina, the Cavaliers looked much more like the team that dominated the ACC in the Round of 32. They dominated on the glass, shot 55 percent as a team and ran away from the Memphis Tigers 78-60 and onto the Sweet 16. A month ago the Cavaliers would have been the heavy favorite, but the Spartans have been penciled in as the favorite in the region by most despite the fact that they’re a four seed. They really came together late in the season once they got healthy. They had their struggles with Harvard, though, and are by no means a bad matchup for the Cavaliers. With the way they play defense, they can beat anyone in the field – the Spartans included. What’s going to be important for the Cavaliers is to be able to keep pace offensively, because the Spartans are the kind of team that is going to be tough to outscore even on an off night, that’s the kind of weapons that they have. They’re shooting just under 46 percent from three in the tournament, if they can keep that up and get widespread contributions from their top eight, they’ll be in great position to get past their toughest opponent in the region.

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Michigan State Spartans
For the second time in as many games the Spartans received a career-high from one of their starters, this time Branden Dawson. While he may not have erupted in the same fashion as Adreian Payne did against Dayton, he came through with 26 vital points as the Spartans held off the Crimson 80-73. The Crimson trailed by as many as 16 at one point, but stormed back to take the lead with 7:11 remaining. The Spartans outscored them 20-11 after that point, though, to secure their spot in the Sweet 16 against Virginia. The game has the makings of a really physical contest. The Spartans’ physicality worked against them at times against Harvard, who made 30 trips to the line. Even though the Cavaliers have had their struggles at the free throw line throughout the year, you never want to send a team that much. The Cavaliers’ defense is really going to test the Spartans’ halfcourt execution. The guards are really going to have to be up to the challenge of making good decisions against one of the top-ranked defenses in the country. If they’re getting the basketball where it needs to be and keeping the Cavaliers’ shooters in check, they’ll be moving onto the Elite Eight.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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