By Matt Youmans
VSiN senior editor
A typical Tom Izzo team resembles Rocky Balboa, bloodied and knocked down early in the fight yet bouncing back to throw knockout punches in the late rounds.
But this Michigan State team is atypical, and it’s not going to be so tough in March. The Spartans are short on size and talent. Miles Bridges is a fantastic freshman who’s destined for the NBA soon, but he’s not getting enough help.
In the early rounds in November, the Spartans were knocked down by Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke. That’s OK, everyone said, because Izzo’s teams do this every season. Wait until February and March.
We are still waiting, and we are pessimistic. Michigan State (14-10, 6-5 Big Ten) is off a 29-point loss at Michigan and in danger of being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament before it begins.
Izzo is never easy to knock out, though. Four days after he was embarrassed, this seems like a good time to be on his side.
I’ll back Michigan State as a 6-point home favorite over Iowa today, mostly because it’s a bounce-back spot for the Spartans and a bad spot for the Hawkeyes, who are recovering from a 101-89 double-overtime loss at Minnesota.
This game features two of the Big Ten’s top players (Bridges and Peter Jok) and two coaches (Izzo and Fran McCaffrey) who never stop begging for calls and complaining to the officials. Both coaches are desperate, but Izzo will get more calls at home.
The Hawkeyes have shown a tendency to be horrible on the road, getting blown out by 22 at Purdue and by 35 at Northwestern. Bridges should carry the Spartans to a win and cover.
Four more college basketball plays today (home team in CAPS):
NOTRE DAME (Pick) over Florida State:
Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon leads the offensively talented Seminoles, who are scoring 84.8 points per game. But the Fighting Irish have scorers, too, and they lead the nation in free-throw percentage (80.7).
Bonzie Colson, V.J. Beachem, Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia each average at least 14 points for Notre Dame, which is 13-2 at home with the losses to Duke and Virginia. Mike Brey’s coaching edge helps push the Irish over the top.
COLORADO STATE (-3) over Fresno State: The Rams have won five of six since getting blown out at Fresno in mid-January. Look for a big game from senior guard Gian Clavell, who averaged 21 points in recent victories over Utah State and UNLV.
Unless Paul George returns to suit up, the Bulldogs should struggle in this spot, three days after losing in four overtimes at Wyoming.
UNLV (-3) over San Jose State: It’s sad to see, but the Rebels (10-15, 3-9) are in last place in the weak Mountain West. This is UNLV’s best shot to win another game, and coach Marvin Menzies is running out of excuses after getting crushed 104-77 at Nevada.
Brandon Clarke, the Spartans’ sophomore forward, has the ability to take over against UNLV’s undisciplined defense. Still, San Jose is celebrating an upset of San Diego State that caused about 50 fans to storm the court. Bet against a team after a court storming, even a mild one. It’s risky, but this is the last chance to back the Rebels.
ARIZONA STATE (-2) over Stanford: This is a play on another team that was embarrassed this week. The Sun Devils were slaughtered 68-43 by California, a surprising result because they had been showing improvement, including a one-point loss at Oregon on Feb. 2. Bobby Hurley is a good coach, and I like to bet on a good coach after a bad loss.