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Bet on No. 7 Michigan State to topple No. 3 Kansas State in Sweet 16 matchup

Led by Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, the Spartans will continue their Cinderella run to the Elite Eight with narrow victory

Tom Izzo has Michigan State back in the Sweet 16 for the 15th time in his 25-year career with the school. The No. 7 seed Spartans, who are 10-4 under Izzo in this round, are a slim favorite over No. 3 seed Kansas State in Thursday’s East Region semifinal. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Tom Izzo has Michigan State back in the Sweet 16 for the 15th time in his 25-year career with the school. The No. 7 seed Spartans, who are 10-4 under Izzo in this round, are a slim favorite over No. 3 seed Kansas State in Thursday’s East Region semifinal. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)Read moreDylan Buell / Getty Images

Despite having no problem with its opening-round March Madness opponent, No. 3 seed Kansas State took the court for its second-round game against No. 6 seed Kentucky as an underdog.

And despite outscoring Kentucky 19-9 over the final four minutes of a 75-69 victory, the Wildcats once again are an underdog against a lower seed — No. 7 Michigan State — in the Sweet 16.

Perhaps that’s because the Spartans wiped out No. 2 seed Marquette in its Round of 32 game Sunday.

Or perhaps it’s because Michigan State has reached this stage five times since the 2012 NCAA Tournament while K-State has been here once since 1988.

Or perhaps it’s because Spartans coach Tom Izzo is 10-4 all time in the Sweet 16 and Wildcats coach Jerome Tang is in his first year as a head coach at any college.

Or maybe it’s all of the above. Regardless, we’re respecting the oddsmakers’ opinion in this East Region semifinal clash and siding with the short favorite — the one led by a Hall of Fame coach.

Odds updated as of 2:45 p.m. ET on March 21.

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Michigan State vs. Kansas State Prediction

  1. Michigan State -1.5 (at BetMGM)

Michigan State vs. Kansas State Prediction: Analysis

On the surface, the only thing that makes less sense than K-State being an underdog in this game is that bettors (like us) are laying the points.

And we’re not even talking about the massive seeding discrepancy (although we could).

The Wildcats are 25-9 on the season. They finished tied for third in the grueling Big 12. They posted at least one victory against the other six conference rivals that received March Madness bids (Kansas, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia). And they’re one of just two Big 12 teams still standing (the other being Texas).

Meanwhile, Michigan State went 19-13 in the regular season, 11-8 in the Big Ten and lost its opening-round conference tournament game as a 6-point favorite to an opponent (Ohio State) that went 5-15 in league play.

Beyond that, Kansas State finished No. 24 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and is 21st in KenPom. The Spartans’ corresponding rankings: No. 33 and No. 25.

Want more proof that this point spread is illogical? OK, the Wildcats score more points per game (75.8 vs. 70.6) than Michigan State. And their greatest strength (defending the 3-point shot) matches up perfectly against the Spartans’ greatest strength (shooting the 3-ball).

Really, just about everything points Kansas State’s way, including the fact that the team’s two best players during the regular season— fifth-year seniors Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson — showed out last week.

» READ MORE: 2023 March Madness odds: Alabama favored slightly over Houston to win it all

Nowell averaged 22 points and 11.5 assists in wins over 14-seed Montana State and Kentucky, while Johnson had a combined 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

Ah, but as we’ve mentioned multiple times, the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups and coaching. And in this game, Michigan State has a decided edge in both.

On the matchup front, the Spartans play a style of physical defense that Kansas State didn’t see in its first two tournament games. It’s a defense that held No. 10 seed USC to 62 points in the first round and Marquette — a team that averaged 81 points per game in the regular season — to 60 points in the Round of 32.

This also needs to be noted: The Wildcats caught a massive break in their game against Kentucky, whose best shooter — Antonio Reeves — missed his first 14 attempts from 3-point range (and finished 1-for-15 from deep).

Reeves shot 41% from beyond the arc in the regular season; he was one of just three Kentucky players to shoot better than 33.3% from distance.

Michigan State? It only has four players who made more than one-third of their 3-point shots in the regular season — but they all connected at an impressive 41% clip or better.

Those four players — guards Jaden Akins and Tyson Walker, and forwards Joey Houser and Malik Hall — happen to be four of the Spartans’ top five scorers.

And get this: Walker (0-for-5) and Akins (1-for-10) were awful from downtown against USC and Marquette. Yet Michigan State won both games going away.

Regarding the coaching edge, there’s not much to say. Izzo is a legend, particularly at this time of year. Not only is he 10-4 in Sweet 16 games, but he’s won the last three in a row.

Kansas State’s Tang has done a tremendous job in his first season leading a program after nearly two decades as a Baylor assistant. And he was terrific last weekend.

But the Sweet 16 is a different beast — and so is facing Izzo. Just ask Marquette’s Shaka Smart, the presumptive national Coach of the Year.

In what figures to be a close game throughout, we’re betting on Izzo’s experience to get the Spartans over the hump and (improbably) into the Elite Eight.

» READ MORE: 2023 March Madness betting trends: Will strong Under trends continue in Sweet 16?

Michigan State vs. Kansas State Odds (via Bet MGM):

  1. Point spread: Michigan State (-1.5, -115) vs. Kansas State (+1.5, -105)

  2. Moneyline: Michigan State (-130) vs. Kansas State (+110)

  3. Total: 137.5 points

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