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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Spotlight will be put on Marquette and Michigan State’s guards in second round matchup of March Madness

Photo by Alex DeBuhr
Junior guard Tyler Kolek looks to make a pass in No. 11 Marquette men’s basketball’s win over No. 16 Xavier Feb. 15 at Fiserv Forum.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Marquette takes on Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament this afternoon in Nationwide Arena, the spotlight will be put on the same unit.

Both teams are led by their guards, specifically their point guards. As the NCAA Tournament has shown over the years, successful guard play leads to a team’s long run in March.

Here’s a closer look into both team’s guards:

Marquette’s guards

Junior guard Tyler Kolek, a consensus All-American and a finalist for the Naismith national player of the year, is the lead conductor of Marquette’s offense.

“He makes it so easy for guys,” Field of 68 Media Network’s Rob Dauster told the Marquette Wire. “You kind of just gotta stand there and wait and it’s like if I’m open, Tyler’s going to find you. He’s one of those guys that knows you’re open before you move.”

Kolek also does more than dish out dimes and throw up lobs to forward Oso Ighodaro for the Golden Eagles. He has led Marquette in scoring over the last 10 games, averaging 17.2 points per contest.

“To get a guard like he’s got in Kolek that becomes the player of the year in that league is amazing,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said.

MORE ≥ Kolek is more than a facilitator on one of the nation’s top offensive teams 

One thing to watch with Kolek is his right thumb. In Friday’s win over Vermont, his thumb was caught on a jersey of a Vermont player and bent backwards. He didn’t have his best outing of the season, but he did see the floor for majority of the game.

He told reporters Saturday during a media availability at Nationwide Arena that he “will be ready to go on Sunday.”

Sophomore guard Kam Jones is the reason why the Golden Eagles snapped their 3,641 day long NCAA Tournament winless drought as he rattled off 18 consecutive points in the win over the Catamounts.

Jones, a second-team All-Big East selection, leads Marquette in scoring and averages close to three 3-pointers per game.

Sophomore guard Stevie Mitchell has been the defensive anchor amongst Marquette’s guards all season, guarding the opponent’s best player on a daily basis. He will most likely have Michigan State junior guard A.J. Hoggard this afternoon.

Over this season-long 10-game winning streak, the Golden Eagles have forced 15.1 turnovers per game, with Mitchell leading the charge with 2.4 steals per contest.

Michigan State’s guards 

The Spartans have been referred to by some as a potential dark horse in this year’s NCAA Tournament and it starts with its veteran guard play.

“They do a really good job of attacking and getting in the paint and they seem like they’re passing the ball really well,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said. “Michigan State has a very good blend in their offense of on-ball and off-ball screening. Those guys, they do a nice job using pick and rolls.”

Junior guard A.J. Hoggard has been an impact player on both ends of the ball this season for Michigan State. He is one of three Division I players averaging at least 12.5 points, 6.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

But the 6-foot-4, 205 pound guard can be inconsistent as well for the Spartans, which could give the Golden Eagles the advantage in the point guard matchup.

MORE ≥ STARTING 5: Five key things to watch when Marquette takes on Michigan State in Round of 32 

MORE ≥ Former Marquette forward Joey Hauser set to face his old team Sunday in NCAA Tournament

Senior guard Tyson Walker, much like how Mitchell is for Marquette, is a two-way player for the Spartans impacting the game on both ends of the floor.

In its first round win over the University of Southern California, Walker led on the defensive end for Michigan State as he silenced the Trojans’ top scorer, Boogie Ellis, to just six points, 12 fewer than his season average.

He is also Michigan State’s leading scorer with 14.5 points per game.

Sophomore guard Jaden Akins has come around over the last five games for the Spartans averaging 14.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54.2% from beyond the arc.

On the other hand, Marquette’s defense has picked up over the last month and it will cause trouble for Michigan State.

In its three games in the Big East Tournament, the Golden Eagles held their opponents to 36% from the floor overall and 29% from long distance.

Michigan State, whichs ranks fourth in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage, will face a style of defense they haven’t seen before this season Hoggard said.

“They’re very aggressive on defense. They get up in you, they get after you. They blow up a lot of things, take away things,” Hoggard said.

The Spartans will aim to carry over their defense from Friday afternoon against Kolek and company.

“In some ways I think it’s easier because the shooting is a skill where defending is a choice if you’re a good defensive player and I’ve got three really good defensive players,” Izzo said on carrying over how his guards defended against USC on Friday. “But, more importantly, it’s going to have to, because the way they play and as good as their guards are, it’s going to have to be that way. That’s one thing I do like about our matchups. I think we have good guards defensively and offensively and I think they do.”

Smart said the way that Izzo utilizes his players/guards in various ball movements and screens will cause some trouble for his team.

“Michigan State has always, going back to Mo Pete (Morris Peterson), done a great job with cutting and moving off the ball. That’s going to be a real challenge for us.  We’ll have to do a good job defeating screens. In some ways, similar to UConn, who we played three times this year, with that level of physicality and precision, the way that they cut and move and that type of aggressiveness,” Smart said.

MORE ≥ How Shaka Smart’s importance on relationships has led Marquette to its best season in over a decade

Advantage: Marquette

How to Follow:

  • Listen on Marquette Radio: Coverage will begin at 4:10 p.m. CST from Columbus as John Leuzzi and Kristin Parisi have the call. Click here to listen.
  • Live Updates on Twitter: @KaylynnWrightMU, @JohnLeuzziMU and @MUWireSports

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU. 

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