Alabama vs Michigan State is a fairly even matchup on paper. Who will advance to the semifinals of the PK85 Invitational bracket?
TV schedule: Thursday, November 24th, 10:30 pm ET (approx) ESPN
Arena: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
The Phil Knight Tournament has two different brackets this season, the Legacy and Invitational brackets. The Legacy has two clear favorites in Duke and Gonzaga that will be favored to get to the finals. But while North Carolina is the highest-ranked on the Invitational side, there are some credible threats that can stop them from winning the title.
Two of them are facing off in the quarterfinals between Michigan State (3-1) and Alabama (4-0). The Spartans are one of the biggest early surprises of the season, already with big wins over Kentucky and Villanova after starting out unranked. They’re a team that doesn’t have any clear stars but the depth of quality that has in their 8-man rotation has worked. Joey Hauser (14.0 ppg) and Tyson Walker (13.5 ppg) lead the way offensively, while AJ Hoggard is dishing out 8.3 apg in the backcourt, and center Mady Sissoko has been an unsung hero inside, fairing well against All-Americans, Oscar Tshiebwe and Drew Timme.
The Spartans are now ranked and take on another ranked foe in the Crimson Tide. They haven’t played anyone of note but do have four double-digit victories. The most notable thing for them is that Jahvon Quinerly, who averaged 13.8 ppg and 4.2 apg a year ago, is back earlier than expected after suffering an injury in the NCAA Tournament.
He’s still getting back into the fold so for now, the lead guard is Mark Sears, the transfer from Ohio. He’s averaging 15.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 3.5 apg and has been the all-around playmaker the Tide has needed. But the star of the team has been Brandon Miller, the five-star freshman wing averaging 20.3 ppg and 9.3 rpg. The 6’8 forward had a reputation as an elite scorer and through four games has continued that for the team.
The question is will Miller and Alabama be able to do that against the veteran Spartans? They’re by far the best defensive unit they’ve seen yet and Mailk Hall can defend him well. And head coach Tom Izzo has put on a masterclass already this season so expect him to come up with a game plan.
This should be a fairly entertaining matchup but the key difference will be that one team is battle-tested while the other hasn’t been yet, and is also still bringing in a key player into the fold. I think the timing benefits Michigan State and the final score will reflect that.
Prediction: Michigan State 72, Alabama 64