Tom Izzo is to March Madness as Reggie Jackson was to baseball in October. Every season begins and Michigan State lands a spot in the top 25, then they pick up a few losses along the way and experts seem to forget about them in February. Then enters the month of March and Tom Izzo becomes a magician and the next you know the Spartans are playing for a spot in the Final Four. This year's match up will come against a defensive powerhouse in Louisville.
#4 Louisville vs. #7 Michigan State
Louisville, much like Michigan State this season, struggled during the middle of the season and at one point, the Cardinals had lost 3 of 4 games. Louisville then cut ties with Chris Jones for the year. Once the Cardinals got through that rough stretch, winning is just about all they have done. Quentin Snyder was the one called upon to fill in for Jones and he has exceeded in his starting row, scoring double digits in all three tournament games this year.
Louisville Top Scorers
- Terry Rozier 17.2 ppg
- Montrezl Harrell 15.7 ppg
- Wayne Blackshear 11.1 ppg
- Quentin Snider 4.1 ppg
Keys to the Game:
Scoring against the Cardinals
Louisville once again has one of the nation's top defenses, only allowing 59.4 points per game, which ranks 16th in the country. A key reason why the Cardinals' defense has been so great this season is because they only allow their opponents to shoot 43.8% in effective field goal percentage. The Cardinals also only let their opponents shoot 30% from behind the arc. Michigan State will have to find ways to get open looks to score against Louisville, and to make sure to knock down any open three point attempts they are able to find.
Force Louisville to shoot
Michigan State can find success on the defensive end by forcing the guards on Louisville to shoot from the outside. The Cardinals find success in scoring down low in the paint or in transition, but are one of the weaker jump shooting teams in the nation, shooting only 30 percent from three. Look for the Spartans to pack the lane and bait Louisville into shooting from the outside.
Stopping Cardinal Stars
Michigan State will be challenged in star power Sunday, when the Cardinals use big names Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell. Both stars have played exceptional during the NCAA Tournament this year, including Harrell scoring 24 points against NC State on Friday night. Rozier added 17 points but more importantly grabbed 13 rebounds for the Cardinals. Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine will have to counter balance the star attack by the Cardinals. Both Spartan guards had huge games against Oklahoma scoring a combined 42 points.
For Tom Izzo to continue his magic run towards the Final Four the Spartans are going to have to find a way to shut down big man Harrell and hot hand Rozier. Along with shutting them down on the defensive end Michigan State is going to have to knock down any open outside jump shoots that they are given. Louisville's defense does not allow many open looks so the Spartans must take advantage of any open looks they get.