Three keys: No. 8 Central Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State


Sue Guevara runs practice at Notre Dame before NCAA Tournament matchup with Michigan State on March 23 in South Bend, Indiana.

Mid-American Conference vs. Big Ten Conference. It's a No. 8 seed against a No. 9 seed in a do or die situation in March.

When No. 8 Central Michigan (25-7) and No. 9 Michigan State (20-11) take the floor, this is what the contest will look like from a bracket standpoint in the NCAA Tournament. 

And as seen on paper, it should be an evenly played game.

Here’s three keys to the in-state clash between the Spartans and Chippewas.

Presley Hudson

The last time CMU took the floor in the MAC Tournament semifinal 82-77 loss against Buffalo, Presley Hudson would be the first to tell you she didn’t play well.

“(Buffalo) gave a good defensive effort but I had open shots and just didn’t make them,” Hudson said. “There were sometimes where I had no one around me and couldn’t make open shots.”

Hudson went 3-of-15 from the field and 2-of-10 from beyond the arc against the Bulls. The senior guard averages 20.4 points per game and barely cracked double figures with 10 tallies.

The shot everyone will remember was the buzzer beater at the end of regulation Hudson netted against Eastern Michigan the day before and the 11 points she scored in overtime after it tied the score at 73. She eventually led the Chippewas to an 88-80 victory.

Before that heroic shot fell, however, Hudson struggled against the Eagles as well.

Hudson made 4-of-13 shots from the field and 2-of-6 from downtown. Despite catching fire for overtime where she went 3-of-4 with a triple and four free throws, the Wayland native struggled to shoot in the MAC Tournament.

Central Michigan guard Presley Hudson practices at the Joyce Center on March 22 in preparation for the NCAA Tournament in South Bend.

If it wasn’t for that overtime performance and game-tying shot from Hudson, CMU never would’ve seen Buffalo.

It’s evident what Reyna Frost can do. However, this team was built by both seniors, Frost and Hudson. CMU’s point guard needs to be consistent in the NCAA Tournament for the Chippewas to succeed.

Reyna Frost vs. Jenna Allen

When it comes to rebounds, this will be the battle to keep an eye on.

Frost is second in all of NCAA Division I basketball in boards per outing with 13.5 per (432 total). Allen led the Spartans with 202 boards on the season (6.6 per) and was 16th in the Big Ten. 

MSU women’s basketball beat reporter for Impact Radio Sam Britten said Allen is “clearly” the best big on the team.

“Overall what separates her from any big or really any player on the team is she is the only senior and knows how to lead the way,” Britten said. “Suzy Merchant has said for her to be a senior and not start as many games as other senior leaders did in the past, says a lot about where she has come to.”

As a starter in all 32 games this season, Allen has 12.6 points per game and is shooting the ball 50 percent from inside the arc. Frost shoots the ball at 55.4 from the field. 

Both forwards can also shoot the ball at a high percentage from downtown. Frost has made 39-of-94 (41.5 percent) triples and Allen has netted 32-of-84 (38.1 percent) of her 3-point attempts.

With both of these players doing a lot of the scoring and rebounding for their teams, look for the winner of the battle inside to weigh heavy on the outcome of the contest.

Central Michigan guard Maddy Watters shoots a 3-pointer in practice at the Joyce Center in South Bend at the NCAA Tournament.

The 3-point shot

Both teams can score the basketball at a high clip. CMU leads the MAC with 80.3 points per game and the Spartans are second in the Big Ten with 75.1 points per outing.

When the Chippewas and Spartans are at their best scoring, they both run up the score the same way — 3-point shooting.

CMU leads its conference with a 38.4 3-point percentage. MSU is second in the Big Ten at 36.7 percent. 

Tayrn McCutcheon leads the Spartans in that category. The 5-foot-5 junior guard is third in the Big Ten with a 38.7 3-point percentage. Hudson leads the Chippewas and shoots it at a 38.2 percent clip, good for fourth in the MAC.

CMU has four players (Hudson, Frost, Micaela Kelly and Maddy Watters) who shoot the 3-pointer over 37 percent from deep with 100 or more attempts. The Spartans have three players (Allen, McCutcheon and Shay Colley) who shoot it over 31 percent with more than 80 attempts. 

Getting out to a hot start from beyond the arc will go a long way for the winner in this contest.