By Ty Elliott
Tonight at 7:47 p.m. on TBS, the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals will look to upset the number one seed Michigan State Spartans in a Sweet 16 matchup in the West region. The two teams come into Thursday’s game after winning close games against their third-round match-ups. The Spartans defeated ninth-seeded Saint Louis Billikens 65-61, and the Cardinals beat the fifth-seeded New Mexico Lobos 59-56.
Both teams come into the game evenly matched. Michigan State is a tough and physical team that likes to impose their will on their opponent in the paint. Their star player, Draymond Green, averages 20 points and 12.5 rebounds per game during the tournament, while point guard Keith Appling is averaging 14.5 points and three assists per game. Appling is a scoring point guard with amazing speed in a fast-break situation. Louisville’s Peyton Siva and Russ Smith will have to control Appling on the fast-break and slow down Green on the offensive end in order to win and advance to the Elite Eight.
For Louisville, the key is the overall play of point guard Peyton Siva. Siva has had mixed performances during the tournament so far. Against the 13 seeded Davidson Wildcats, Siva finished with 17 points, two rebounds, and six assists, and in their game against New Mexico, Siva played poorly and had six points, five assists, and only one rebound. Siva must play well in order for the Cardinals to win. Louisville also needs to have big performances from their front court. Freshman forward Chane Behanan and sophomore center Gorgui Dieng must play big for Louisville to out-rebound Green and the Spartans.
The pace of game may be the biggest factor in determining who wins. Michigan State will look to slow the game down by running their half-court offense and creating fast-break situations when they can, and by playing a zone defense. Louisville wants to play at a fast and up tempo pace using their press to force turnovers and score easily. The team that can play at their pace will win.
Although the Spartans are regarded as the favorite to win the game and advance to the Final Four, I believe Louisville will win. The game will be a tough defensive battle and a low scoring game, but the Cardinals will end up winning 54-52.