With the final set of “Third Round” games finishing up Sunday night, it’s time for the Sweet 16. As we do every year, we will have in-depth previews of each Sweet 16 and Elite 8 matchup this weekend.
In this post, we preview the West Region Sweet 16 matchup between Tom Izzo and Draymond Green’s #1 seed Michigan State Spartans and the Rick Pitino- and Peyton Siva-led 4th-seeded Louisville Cardinals.
Michigan State-Louisville Sweet 16 Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #1 Michigan State v #4 Louisville in West Region
- Michigan State-Louisville Date: Thursday, 3/22
- Michigan State-Louisville Tip Time: TBA
- Michigan State-Louisville Location: Phoenix
- Michigan State-Louisville TV: TBA
- Michigan State-Louisville Announcers: TBA
- Michigan State-Louisville Point Spread: Michigan State -5
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Michigan State-Louisville Analysis and Prediction
The top seeds held serve in the upper half of the West region, with Michigan State and Louisville both taking care of business on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State won a hard fought defensive struggle against Saint Louis on Sunday to make the Sweet Sixteen. Keith Appling led the team in scoring with 19 points, but Draymond Green had another fantastic all-around game with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists. The Cardinals held off a late rally from New Mexico to win on Saturday night, with guard Russ Smith leading the way with 17 points and three steals.
When the two teams meet in Phoenix on Thursday, two of the nation’s three most efficient defenses will take the floor. The difference, however, is that Michigan State’s offensive efficiency is also in the Top 10, while Louisville’s ranks outside of the Top 100.
The Cardinals’ strength on offense is a high offensive rebounding percentage, which ranks inside the Top 50. However, the Spartans are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the nation, which should set up a fierce battle on the boards.
Aside from that, Louisville has struggled with their shooting throughout the season, hitting just 31.3 percent from deep and 47.9 percent on two-pointers. Meanwhile, Michigan State is in the Top 15 in field goal defense both inside and outside the arc, which obviously doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have also struggled with a high turnover rate this year, but the Spartans don’t force them at a high rate, so that shouldn’t come into play. The teams are also fairly even in terms of free throw rate.
On the other end of the floor, Louisville is equally stingy in terms of field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot just over 30 percent from beyond the arc and under 42 percent on two-pointers. That being said, the Spartans have been proficient inside, as evidenced by 52.4 percent two-point shooting. Look for a great battle inside between Draymond Green, Derrick Nix, and Adreian Payne for the Spartans and Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan for the Cardinals.
Michigan State will need to take care of the basketball against a Louisville defense that forces turnovers on over 23 percent of their opponents’ possessions. The Spartans are right around the middle of the pack in terms of their offensive turnover rate, but Appling, Brandon Wood, and Travis Trice need to be prepared to handle Louisville’s pressure.
For Louisville to win though, they have to do a better job on the defensive glass. For the year, they rank outside of the Top 250 in defensive rebounding percentage, which is a huge concern heading into a game against a Spartans squad that ranks in the Top 25 in offensive rebounding percentage. Even without the injured Branden Dawson, MSU features multiple players proficient at collecting offensive boards.
Consequently, inside play is one area to watch. The Cardinals were able to weather the storm when Dieng got into foul trouble against Davidson, but I’m not sure they could withstand the same thing here given their lack of depth inside against a tough Michigan State front line.
The other individual matchup will be between Keith Appling and Peyton Siva. Louisville is at its best offensively when Siva is getting into the lane and creating for his teammates. Appling is Sparty’s best perimeter defender, but he will have his hands full on Thursday night.
In the end, I’ll take the team with the better offense in a matchup with two stout defensive clubs. The Spartans are one of the top rebounding teams in the country, and they should be able to exploit Louisville’s weakness on the defensive glass.
Predicted Winner: Michigan State
Michigan State Spartans Team Capsule
- Conference: Big Ten
- Record: 27-7 (13-5 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 12-5
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Florida State, Gonzaga, Indiana, Lehigh, Michigan, Ohio State (2), Purdue (2), Wisconsin (3)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State
- Player to Watch: Draymond Green (6’7” F, Sr.) – 16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, 1.5 spg, 39.5 3P%
Michigan State Bottoms Line:
The Spartans lost their first two games to North Carolina and Duke, but they bounced back to tie for the Big Ten title and capped off the regular season with a win in the Big Ten Tournament. With strong defense and relentless rebounding, this MSU team has two important characteristics of Tom Izzo’s best teams in his tenure in East Lansing. The Spartans are third in defensive efficiency and rank in the Top 25 in two-point defense, three-point defense, and defensive rebounding percentage. On offense, the Spartans rank just outside of the Top 10 in overall efficiency and are 25th in offensive rebounding percentage.
Senior leader Draymond Green is the heart and soul of the Spartans. He averages a double-double, leads the team in steals and blocks, and is second in assists. Green has developed his game over his four-year career and hit nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc this season. He has also played a role in the development of fellow frontcourt players Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. Nix has slimmed down and shoots over 55 percent from the field, while Payne also makes a high percentage. Both guys also have strong rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor, and Payne has an impressive block percentage as well. Sophomore Keith Appling has had a solid season in the backcourt, scoring over 11 points per game and leading the team in assists. Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood improved down the stretch and scored a season-high 21 points in the Big Ten Championship. They need him to step up his scoring with freshman Branden Dawson out for the season, and the same goes for senior Austin Thornton who hits over 46 percent from beyond the arc.
Louisville Cardinals Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 26-9 (10-8 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Lamar, Long Beach State, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Western Kentucky
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Marquette, Syracuse (2)
- Player to Watch: Peyton Siva (5’11” G, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg
Louisville Bottoms Line:
The Cardinals battled injuries and shooting woes for most of the season but pulled it together for an impressive four-game run in the Big East Tournament. They rank in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency, thanks largely to a strong effective field goal percentage defense and their ability to force turnovers. The offense numbers for the season are pretty ugly for the most part, with the exception of their high offensive rebounding percentage. For the year, the Cardinals shot just 31.1 percent from beyond the arc to go with a high turnover rate.
Six players score at least 9.0 points per game, led by Kyle Kuric with 13.1. Guard Russ Smith can get hot and score in bunches, but he is the definition of a volume shooter. Peyton Siva struggled for much of the season but played some of his best basketball in the Big East Tournament, while Chris Smith is the team’s best long-range shooter. Inside, Gorgui Dieng has really improved as a sophomore and shoots 54.9 percent from the field and grabs over nine rebounds per game. He’s joined up front by freshman Chane Behanan, who also boasts solid rebounding percentages on both ends.
West Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Point Spreads
|BYU def Iona 78-72||Tue, 3/14||9:05 ET||Dayton||Nantz-Kellogg-Kerr||truTV||BYU -2|
|1||#1 Michigan State def #16 LIU Brooklyn 89-67||Fri, 3/16||9:15 ET||Columbus||Brando-Gminski||TBS||MSU -20|
|2||#9 Saint Louis def #8 Memphis 61-54||Fri, 3/16||6:50 ET||Columbus||Brando-Gminski||TBS||MEM -3|
|3||#4 Louisville def #13 Davidson 69-62||Thu, 3/15||1:40 ET||Portland||Anderson-Bonner||TBS||UL -7|
|4||#5 New Mexico def #12 Long Beach State 75-68||Thu, 3/15||3:05 ET||Portland||Anderson-Bonner||TBS||UNM -4.5|
|5||#15 Norfolk St def #2 Missouri 86-84||Fri, 3/16||4:35 ET||Omaha||Albert-Kerr-Sager||TNT||MIS -21.5|
|6||#7 Florida def #10 Virginia 71-45||Fri, 3/16||2:10 ET||Omaha||Albert-Kerr-Sager||TNT||UF -3.5|
|7||#3 Marquette def #14 BYU 88-68||Thu, 3/15||2:35 ET||Louisville||Lundquist-Raftery||CBS||TBA|
|8||#6 Murray State def #11 Colorado State 58-41||Thu, 3/15||12:15 ET||Louisville||Lundquist-Raftery||CBS||MUR -3.5|
|9||#1 Michigan State def #9 Saint Louis 65-61||Sun, 3/18||2:45 ET||Columbus||Brando-Gminski||CBS|
|10||#4 Louisville def #5 New Mexico 59-56||Sat, 3/17||9:40 ET||Portland||Anderson-Bonner||TBS||LOU -1.5|
|11||#7 Florida def #15 Norfolk State||Sun, 3/18||6:10 ET||Omaha||Albert-Kerr-Sager||TNT||UF -14|
|12||#3 Marquette def #6 Murray State 62-53||Sat, 3/17||5:15 ET||Louisville||Lundquist-Raftery||CBS||MARQ -5|
|13||#1 Michigan State v #4 Louisville||Thu, 3/22||Phoenix||MSU -5|
|14||#7 Florida v #3 Marquette||Thu, 3/22||Phoenix||MARQ -2|
|ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL|
|15||Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner||Sat, 3/24||Phoenix|