(1) Michigan State vs. (4) Louisville: West Region
Michigan State 29-7, 13-5 Big Ten (Regular season and Conference Tournament Champions)
Louisville 28-9, 10-8 Big East (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 7:47 p.m. Thursday
Location: U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix
Winner will face: (3) Marquette or (7) Florida, Sunday
Michigan State def. Long Island, 89-67; def. Saint Louis, 65-61
Louisville def. Davidson, 69-62; def. New Mexico, 59-56
Michigan State No. 5 AP; No. 4 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Louisville No. 17 AP; No. 18 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Michigan State 2
Line: Michigan State -5 (O/U 125)
Players to Watch
Michigan State: F Draymond Green, 6-7 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.8 apg); C Derrick Nix, 6-9 Jr. (8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 55.9% FG); G Keith Appling, 6-1 So. (11.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 spg). Green – the Big Ten Player of the Year – was at his best in the Spartans’ first two rounds of the tournament, including a triple-double in an 89-67 win over Long Island. He has 42 points, 25 rebounds, 16 assists, three steals and he has made 16 of his 28 field goal attempts and four of his eight 3s.
Louisville: G Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (9.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (9.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg); G Russ Smith, 6-0 So. (11.4 ppg, 2.3 spg, 1.9 apg). Smith can be spectacular and … let’s just say inconsistent. On Saturday he was definitely the former, scoring 17 points, hitting all three of his 3-point shots, getting three steals and playing great overall defense in the win over New Mexico.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Michigan State: Draymond Green. If they have nothing else, the Spartans have Green, one of the toughest, smartest and best leaders in college basketball. Having a star is always a key to winning a national championship, and Green seems to be on the level of Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves. Michigan State shoots 48.2 percent from the field, thanks to a bulky, savvy frontline. The Spartans are a very good rebounding team and out-rebound opponents by 8.3 points per game. They rarely allow an offensive rebound and they rebound 37 percent of their own misses.
Louisville: The Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to 61.1 points, 37.9 percent from the floor and 30.2 from the 3-point line. They force 15.6 turnovers and get nine steals per game. During their 6-game winning streak, U of L has held five of the opponents to under 40 percent from the field, including a 23-for-58 outing for a hot New Mexico squad. Siva is an outstanding playmaker and floor leader and the Cardinals have very good depth.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Michigan State: Because of their style, pace and lack of perimeter offense, the Spartans have a hard time pulling away from anyone. That could put them in jeopardy late in the tournament. Against Saint Louis, MSU shot 54 percent and the Billikens managed just 35, yet because of the Spartans’ lack of explosiveness, the final margin was just four points. The Michigan State defense applies almost no perimeter pressure, forcing only 12.7 turnovers per game and they have a minus-0.2 turnover margin. Although the frontline is the Spartans’ strength, without injured Branden Dawson, they have almost no frontline depth, so foul trouble has the potential to be damaging.
Louisville: The Cardinals have really struggled to put the ball in the basket. They shoot just 42.5 percent from the floor, 31.3 from behind the arc and 68.7 from the stripe. Louisville turns the ball over 14.4 times per game and has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. For the season, the Cardinals out-rebound opponents 37.9-36.3 per game, but they were dominated by the Lobos, 34-23 on the boards, allowing 15 offensive rebounds.
The Bottom Line: Louisville has played above its head. Green will bring the Cardinals back down to Earth.
The Pick: Michigan State 61, Louisville 51
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-164-6
NCAA Tournament (through first two rounds): 27-21-1