How Sweet It Is: Previewing Tonight's NCAA Tournament Midwest Games

Chris BrooksCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - MARCH 22:  Goran Suton #14 of the Michigan State Spartans fights for position under the basket against Nikola Vucevic #5 of the USC Trojans during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on March 22, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Michigan State won 74-69. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The brand new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be the site for this year's Midwest regional games for the 2009 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Tipping off at 7:07 p.m. EST, the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals (30-5) will face the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats (21-13). Following the Cardinals/Wildcats game, the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans (28-6) will battle the defending national champions and No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (27-7).

The Cardinals, the Big East champions, rolled in their first round game against Morehead State, but struggled against No. 9 Siena in Dayton. Siena led 63-59 with 7:20 remaining, but a late surge led to a 79-72 Louisville win.

Arizona is no darling Cinderella in this year's tournament. Many said they do not belong, that their resume is not good enough, but they proved the critics wrong last weekend with a convincing victory over No. 5 Utah and No. 13 Cleveland State.

Obviously, those two opponents do not look too flashy  on paper, but the Cleveland State Vikings out of the Horizon League defeated Butler to get in the tournament, then slapped No. 4 Wake Forest in the face, winning by 25.

Should they defeat Louisville, you still cannot say Cinderella, but what one can say is this team is a legitimate contender who belongs and can win this championship. Their 25 consecutive tournament appearances disallow the Cinderella term.

In the nightcap, Michigan State will battle last year's champions, the Kansas Jayhawks. It is a rematch of a Jan. 10 game, and there the Spartans defeated KU 75-62, but they did it from the confines of their home court in East Lansing and without the pressure of the Sweet 16 atmosphere.

Last weekend, the Spartans took care of Robert Morris by a comfortable 15 points, but had problems with Southern Cal. In the end, the Trojans could not make the shots they needed and the Spartans hit their free throws. Kansas struggled with a pesky North Dakota St. team, winning by just 10 points, but the Jayhawks then completely shut down the Dayton offense, cruising to a 60-43 victory to advance.

Now, it's fair game for both MSU and KU.

The winners of tonight's games advance to the regional final to face one another with a trip to Ford Field on the line for the Final Four. The Midwest champion will face either Connecticut or Missouri next weekend.