#4 Louisville Cardinals vs. #1 Michigan State Spartans -5
Coaching matchups don’t get much better than this one; Rick Pitino and his underdog Cards taking on Tom Izzo who is making his tenth Sweet Sixteen appearance in sixteen years. Between the two of them they have eleven Final Fours, two National Championships and countless NCAA Tournament victories. The last time they squared off, Izzo’s Spartans upset Louisville in the Regional Final in 2009 to advance to the Final Four. That was probably Pitino’s best team in his nearly decade long tenure at Louisville. Tonight will give him an interesting opportunity to turn the tables.
Michigan State was barely ranked (and even unranked in some polls) at the beginning of the season. That was before anyone got a good glimpse at Draymond Green and his evolution into one of the most versatile and best leaders in all of the college basketball. The Spartans finished in a three-way tie for the Big Ten regular season crown and then beat Ohio State to also win the Big Ten tourney title.
Louisville has also been on fire of late, racing to the Big East tournament title and then continuing their excellent play in the NCAA Tournament. Much of their success has been keyed by their staunch defense and the fantastic play of point guard Edgar Sosa. Sosa can win you a game, or lose you one; it depends on which guy who shows up. Lately, it’s been the good version and the version that earned him Most Outstanding Player honors in the Big East Tournament. He is as quick off the dribble as any guard in the nation, and I think he going to put a ton of pressure on Michigan State’s guards. If he can continue his excellent play, this Louisville team is similarly talented to the Spartans and ripe to pull off the upset.
Both teams are excellent defensively, holding their opponents to 37% shooting on the season. However, despite the fact that Michigan State shoots a ridiculous 48% from the floor on the season, they haven’t seen many defenses as athletic and persistent as the Cardinals. It will force them to shoot well from the perimeter, and that isn’t really their game. Michigan State is a fantastic and physical team, but I think Louisville’s guards are more creative and better shooting behind the arc.
It’s going to be a great game, and I like Louisville to pull off the big upset. Either way, getting five points is too good to pass up on a matchup as even as the one between these two teams.
Free Pick: Louisville Cardinals +5