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Big Ten in NCAA Basketball Elite Eight Preview: Michigan State should beat UConn

We know the Michigan State Spartans (29-8) are the No. 4 seed in the East region and the favorite to win the NCAA title based on the opinions of many college basketball experts, but the players applying the heat are seniors Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.

Senior forward Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans dunks the ball over Anthony Gill #13 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
Senior forward Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans dunks the ball over Anthony Gill #13 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If Michigan State loses today to Connecticut, Payne and Appling will be members of the first senior class that did NOT appear in the Final Four during their four years at MSU. It is a relatively new tradition, but Spartan coach Tom Izzo uses it as leverage to recruit and toughen the basketball program.

Appling, a guard who averages 11.7 points per game (PPG), said it is one of the major reasons that he came to East Lansing to play for Izzo and the Spartans. Every aspiring college player wants to play for a Final Four team and hopefully win the NCAA basketball championship.

Payne, a forward with a 16.6 PPG average, agrees with Appling and impresses the message on players like sophomore guard Gary Harris (16.9 PPG) and junior forward Branden Dawson (11.0 PPG) . The UConn Huskies should be concerned, because if any combination of these four players start scoring bundles of points, the Spartans will easily win this East region funal.

UConn (29-8), the East region's No. 7 seed, won some tough games to get to the regional finals today. It took overtime to beat St. Joseph's in the second round and hard work to beat No. 2 seed ViIllanova. The Huskies beat Iowa State, the No. 3 seed, on Friday night to earn the right to face the Spartans this afternoon.

The Huskies' leader is Shabazz Napier who averages 17.9 points per game (PPG). He'll be looking for help from DeAndre Daniels, who has a 13.0 PPG average, and Ryan Boatright who is scoring at a 12.1 PPG pace.

The Spartans' seniors won't let them down as Michigan State beats UConn to claim a spot in the Final Four.