Date: Sunday, March 29th
Time: 2:20 p.m. EST
Site: Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000) in Indianapolis, IN
Series History: UofL leads 4-2 all-time
Last Meeting: UofL 57, MSU 69 (Jan. 2, 1999 in East Lansing, MI)
National Rankings: UL No. 1, MSU No. 8,7 AP, ESPN/USA Today, (Mar. 16)
The last time these two programs met, Denny Crum was pacing the sidelines and Mateen Cleaves, Mo Peterson and Charlie Bell led Tom Izzo’s Spartans to a 69-57 win in East Lansing. Michigan State went on to lose to Duke in the National Semifinals that year (1999) and win it all the following year (2000).
Ten years later, Louisville (31-5) is now the team sporting multiple future NBA draft picks and will face Michigan State (29-6) Sunday in the Elite Eight. The Spartans will be playing for a chance to go to the Final Four in their home state after coming back from 13 points down to beat Kansas 67-62 in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
It is doubtful many experts will be picking Michigan State to win this game, especially with history against them as well. Louisville is 17-1 all-time as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The hottest team in the country, the Cardinals have now won 13 in a row.
In order to get past Louisville and move on to Detroit, Michigan State is going to have to take care of the basketball. Louisville doesn’t make too many adjustments to their basic pressing zone defense, running four guards in and out to keep them fresh, and as we all know by now, they can obilerate opponents with their defense. That doesn’t bode well for the Spartans, who tend to turn it over at times, which will make it that much tougher for them to outscore Louisville and win the game.
However, if Michigan State continues to defend, rebound, run and score with balance they will have a better chance to pull the upset. The Spartans had five double-figure scorers in the first round and four in the second round, but only two against Kansas.
Michigan State has a point guard capable of breaking down a defense, strong rebounding at both ends of the floor and generally good perimeter defense, which should allow the Spartans to at least stay within striking distance of the Cards.
They are led in scoring by sophomore point guard Kalin Lucas’ 14.7 points per. Lucas is explosive and able to knock down the perimeter jumpshot (shooting 38.3% from beyond the arc this season). He is quick, elusive, an excellent scorer and a developing playmaker and needs to be at his best on Sunday.
Junior forward Raymar Morgan is the only other player averaging double digits (10.5), with senior center Goran Suton coming close at 9.8 points a game. Guards Chris Allen (8.9) and Durrell Summers (8.3) are also scoring threats.
Both Morgan (mono) and Suton (knee) have missed time this year, which hindered the Spartans chemistry throughout the season. But it appears they have put all the pieces together and will look to advance to Ford Field on Sunday.
Future Hall of Fame Coach Tom Izzo has now reached the Sweet Sixteen eight times in the past 12 seasons. The only program to exceed that in the past dozen years is Duke, with 10 Sweet Sixteen trips. MSU is alone in second place.
Izzo took the Spartans to four Final Fours in seven years from 1999 to 2005. Louisville’s Rick Pitino has been to five Final Fours (Providence, Kentucky thrice, and Louisville). Enjoy the game, you will be watching two of the best coaches in the business.
Bobby E’s Gamebreaker: HUMILITY!!!
The Cardinals will have to be careful not to get too confident coming off the rout of Arizona. Michigan State is a very good team and could easily end Louisville’s quest for their third National Championship. Also Tom Izzo one of the best coaches in the game and will surely have something in store for Louisville. I have no doubt that Slick Rick will have this group ready for whatever Izzo and the Spartans bring on Sunday and will move on to Detroit next weekend.
“We know that we’re not going to play like this again because of the type of defense that we’re going to run into now,” Pitino said. “I’ll find something to be very upset about tonight at snack. I think a lack of humility is the greatest killer of potential. So we’re not going to fall in love with ourselves because we had a good game tonight.”