Expect to see … Louisville edition
Here we are again. The Spartans are in the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth time in five years. It’s March and it’s Michigan State basketball at its best — and it will have to be if the Spartans are going to get past Louisville on Thursday night.
The MSU women’s team was just knocked out by Louisville’s last week, and the men’s team now will seek to not fall victim to the Cardinals.
1. A flurry of shot blocks
Louisville center Gorgui Dieng averages 3.1 blocks per game. MSU’s Adreian Payne averages one per game, but has 14 in the Spartans past 10 games — including two games with four. Derrick Nix, despite his post moves, might have trouble with the length of Dieng.
Payne winning the matchup with Dieng will be huge for the Spartans to win. Both Payne and Nix have to be aggressive going after rebounds and really putting the pressure on Dieng to commit fouls early and give themselves the upper hand.
2. Two of the quickest point guards in the nation
The speed of Keith Appling is not often paralleled, but it will be evenly matched, if not eclipsed, by the speed of Louisville’s Peyton Siva. A staple of Rick Pitino’s teams at Louisville is quick guards, because of his desire to press the opposing offense and just play fast.
Siva might be the fastest guard Pitino has had yet. The 6-foot junior slices through defenses and gets to the hoop incredibly well. He also is quick enough that the Cardinals probably won’t use the same sag defense that St. Louis used to bait Appling into shooting 3s.
Appling has similar ability, but is a better man-to-man defender and has the ability to face up on Siva.
If Appling can contain Siva pretty well, it will work in the Spartans favor. Appling also needs to avoid foul trouble, which he got into against Michigan in the first meeting, because it is important he stays on the court and guarding the opposing point guard.
3. Turnovers …
Siva averages 3.5 turnovers per game and Louisville as a team averages 14. The Cardinals press defense will force MSU into some mistakes — particularly from Travis Trice and Brandan Kearney because of inexperience.
Undoubtedly, Draymond Green will be used to help break the press, for his height allows him to see over the defenders that will be in a full-court press and his passing skills make him perfectly suited to help break the press.
Appling, Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood will need to be smart with the ball. Tom Izzo even talked about practicing against six or seven defenders to simulate the press Louisville will bring. Hopefully, the work paid off.
4. Feed Draymond
Green is an All-American for a reason and Louisville doesn’t match up with him well at all. The offense, as usual, will seek to get the ball to the senior captain on the block and allow him to dictate a lot of the offense.
He has five double-doubles in his past six games and it is pretty much an expectation he will record another. If Green is on his game, the Spartans should roll.
The Spartans had to knock off Louisville in 2009 on their way to the Final Four, and the Cardinals were the top overall seed in that tournament. The roles are basically reversed this time around, with Michigan State as a one-seed. Louisville will be trying to flip the result in a similar fashion.
In a meeting between two great coaches, Izzo and Pitino, Izzo should get the best of Pitino. Spartans win 67-62 to move on to the Elite Eight.