NCAA Tournament Preview Southeast Region - First Round (10) Michigan State vs. (7) UCLA

Thursday, March 17 - 7:20 ET

> View all of our 2011 NCAA Tournament Coverage online at CollegeSports-Fans.com!

UCLA and Michigan State aren’t used to playing one another this early in the NCAA Tournament. Each of these storied programs, who have a combined 67 tournament appearances, are also unaccustomed to having such low seeds. The Bruins and the Spartans, in the midst of rebuilding seasons (UCLA) and rollercoaster rides (MSU), still qualified for NCAA Tournament play when all was said and done. Now begins the time to make something of a trip to Bracketville and no longer waste what has gone before.

Michigan State, which played in the Final Four national semifinals last season, began the year with high hopes of returning to college basketball’s holy grail. Suspensions and uneven play have stifled those dreams for now, but the first round of the NCAA Tournament gives everyone in the field a new slate. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who has steered his club to the Sweet 16 in each of the last three seasons, can never be discounted in March. UCLA, decimated by the early entry of many of its players to the NBA draft a few years ago, is back in the NCAA Tournament after one year removed from the Dance. The Bruins have not one senior on their roster and many of these players will be getting their first taste of March Madness.

> Find a great selection of UCLA apparel as well as Michigan State hats & merchandise online through CollegeSports-Fans.com!

UCLA head coach Ben Howland has done a great job at getting this young group to mesh down the stretch in the Pac-10. Despite a surprising Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinal loss to Oregon (the game wasn’t even close: 76-59), the Bruins were seen by many as the second- or third-best team in the conference all season long. While offensive firepower has been the recipe for past Bruin success, this year’s squad is very defense-minded. A tall and athletic frontcourt led by Reeves Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt, and Joshua Smith aids the Bruins in rebounding, protecting the middle, and holding opponents to a low field-goal percentage. In a matchup with Michigan State, the Bruins must win the paint and hope they can use second-chance points to score enough to prevail. This one should be a grind-it-out sort of contest.

Kalin Lucas is the do-everything leader for the Michigan State Spartans. Having made deep runs in the Tournament in years past, the Spartans may have the advantage in both individual prowess and big-game performance. Lucas can take over a tournament game, and with the help of Draymond Green and Durrell Summers, Michigan State can be a very dangerous team as this year’s Big Show progresses. The Spartans play a very similar style as the Bruins, at least to the extent that they often struggle to score but seem to make up for it with a desire to defend. With a favorable draw pitting the winner against Florida in the second round (barring an apocalyptic 15-2 upset), both clubs will come into the competition knowing that a win in the opening round could provide a possible stepping stone to an underdog tournament push. Florida will be favored against each of these teams; for big-name programs such as UCLA and Michigan State, that’s a problem very much worth embracing.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




Dash Fans Network Home | About the DFN | Sports Writing Positions | College Sports Fan Sites | College Sports Articles

Big 12 Sports | Big Ten Sports | Conference USA Sports | MAC Sports | Football Bowls | SEC Sports



Directory of College Sports Message Boards & Forums


College apparel including sports furniture, clothing, hats, jerseys, cheap books, gear, tickets, Fathead sports murals and other sports merchandise has arrived!


Copyright 2005-2009, CollegeSports-fans.com and the Dash Fans Network of Independent College Sports Fan Sites.