The 2018 NCAA Tournament has been filled with upsets, as top-ranked teams are getting knocked off by lower-seeded teams in each region of the bracket. On Sunday, Michigan State basketball fell victim to March Madness.
The Spartans were upset by the No. 11-seeded Syracuse, losing 55-53 in the Round of 32.
A big key to Syracuse pulling off the upset was how it executed playing a zone defense against Michigan State. The Orange prevented the Spartans from scoring a basket in the last 5:43 of the game, missing their final 14 shots against Syracuse’s zone defense. In fact, Syracuse held Michigan State to only 26 percent shooting from the field for the entire game.
After the Michigan State’s loss, ESPN college basketball analysts Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg discussed the upset and why the Spartans struggled to score against Syracuse on SportsCenter.
Greenberg said that the Spartans did not do what was necessary to beat the zone defense, such as getting players to cut through the defense and running fast breaks.
“To beat that zone, you got to attack the glass — they did a good job of that — you got to beat the zone down the floor — they didn’t do a good job of that — and then you’ve got to get multiple cutters in the middle of the zone,” Greenberg said. “If you just play in gaps and reverse the ball, that zone is matched up with you. You got to get guys in and out and get a second cutter through, so now you can distort the zone. They didn’t do that. They settled, they played deep in the clock. That’s not Michigan State basketball.”
Williams added that in order to beat a zone defense like Syracuse’s, you have to have a playmaker in the middle of the zone. He said that they didn’t take advantage what Miles Bridges could have brought in that role.
“I was kind of shocked that Miles Bridges wasn’t more in the middle of the zone,” Williams said. “You saw more Kenny Goins or you saw Jaren Jackson. And, look, Michigan State averages 19 and a half assists per game, they’re one of the top teams in the nation. Today, they had 11 assists and 14 turnovers because they just kept passing the ball around the top perimeter of that zone and they couldn’t get any action from the middle of that gap.”
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Michigan State has not made it to the Sweet 16 since 2015.
The Spartans finished their season with an overall record of 30-5.