Michigan State (19-14) takes on Mississippi State (21-13) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

The Bulldogs earned a No. 8 seed in the field after upsetting Tennessee in the SEC Tournament and advancing to the conference semis. Chris Jans’ group plays tough on the defensive end and leans on high-usage players Josh Hubbard and Tolu Smith on the offensive end.

They’ll meet a Michigan State team that earned a No. 9 seed after going 10-10 against Big Ten competition. The Spartans are led by one of the sport’s best-ever coaches in Tom Izzo — a man who regularly outperforms expectations in the NCAA Tournament.

8 Mississippi State vs. 9 Michigan State betting info

  • Spread: Michigan State -1.5 (via BetMGM)
  • Total: 130.5 points (via BetMGM)

The MSU-MSU clash is 1 of the 3 games in the 8-9 block where the seed underdog is actually the betting favorite. Mississippi State has been a wildly volatile team over the last month-plus. The Bulldogs won 5 in a row from Feb. 7-24 and then lost 4 straight from Feb. 27 through March 9. Then, the Bulldogs upset top-seeded Tennessee in the SEC Tournament to advance to the tournament semifinals, where they lost to the eventual champs in Auburn.

Michigan State has been just as up-and-down. The Spartans were sitting at 9-7 on Jan. 11. From Jan. 14 through Feb. 17, the Spartans won 8 of 10. But they closed out the regular season with 4 losses in 5 games — the only win coming in a 53-49 rock fight against Northwestern. The Spartans beat Minnesota by 10 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament and nearly knocked off top-seed Purdue in the quarters.

Michigan State is 18-14-1 against the spread this season. Mississippi State is 17-16-1 against the spread. The Spartans are a 1- to 1.5-point favorite at some of our top Ohio betting apps.

To help with making predictions in this matchup, here are some advanced metrics from KenPom to consider:

Opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency

  • Mississippi State: 113.6 (62nd)
  • Michigan State: 113.8 (56th)

Opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency

  • Mississippi State: 95.7 (18th)
  • Michigan State: 93.7 (9th)

Opponent-adjusted tempo

  • Mississippi State: 67.1 possessions (202nd)
  • Michigan State: 65.2 possessions (306th)

With that, here are 3 player props for the game:

Mississippi State G Josh Hubbard under 18.5 points (-106 via FanDuel)

The 5-foot-10 freshman was on an absolute tear heading into the SEC Tournament, and then he ate up LSU’s defense for 24 points. But Hubbard hasn’t shot above 40% from the field in any of his last 5 games and takes a huge percentage of his attempts from beyond the 3-point line. Michigan State has one of the nation’s best defenses and can throw a number of looks at Hubbard. With the exception of a 23-point performance by Purdue’s Braden Smith on March 2, guards have had a tough time getting going against Michigan State’s defense.

Mississippi State F Tolu Smith over 2.5 turnovers (+115 via DraftKings)

Smith can be awfully loose with the ball on offense. He has played in 22 games this season and finished with at least 3 turnovers 13 times. Against Tennessee, Smith had 5 turnovers. Jaden Akins, AJ Hoggard, and Tyson Walker all have active hands, and Michigan State forces a turnover on 19% of its opponent’s possessions.

Michigan State G Jaden Akins over 9.5 points (-106 via FanDuel)

If Mississippi State is going to turn it over, Michigan State is going to get transition opportunities, where the Spartans are dangerous. Akins leads the team in 3s attempted per game at 5, and he should have plenty of opportunities to get looks off beyond the arc against the Bulldogs.