Michigan State Spartans (30-6, 15-3 Big 10) vs. Louisville Cardinals (31-5, 16-2 Big East)
Sunday, Mar. 29, 2009 – 2:20 PM EST
The Midwest Regional final features the No. 2 seed, Michigan State, against the No. 1 seed, Louisville.
Louisville will attempt to become the third Big East team to reach the Final Four this year, joining conference foes Connecticut and Villanova. Standing in their way will be the Spartans, in what’s sure to be a game between two schools that value defense.
The Cardinals, as with all Rick Pitino teams, love to use pressure defense to harass teams into turnovers, which they cash into easy baskets. Louisville brings the pressure constantly in an effort to make their opponents feel it in their legs by the time the game draws to a close.
Michigan State, on the other hand, plays tough man-to-man defense. It seems like Tom Izzo’s kids start guarding their men during the pre-game lay-up lines.
Offensively, these teams are another story.
The more points for Louisville, the better.
The Cardinals never met a three-point shot they didn’t like. When your roster has players like Terrence Williams, Preston Knowles, Jerry Smith and Andre McGee, all of whom drain threes at better than 37.6 percent, it’s hard to argue with that strategy.
Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels join Williams to form one of the more athletic front lines in the entire nation. Clark and Williams are both rebounding machines, as they each haul down over 8.5 boards per contest.
The Spartans are a much more conservative offense. They lack the punch and explosiveness that Louisville possesses.
For Michigan State, Goran Suton, Delvon Roe and Raymar Morgan will need to score in the post, and battle the Cardinals on the back boards.
Guards Durrell Summers and Kailin Lucas both drain threes at better than 38 percent. They’ll both need to find the range from behind the arc, especially if the Cardinals are on from three.
The key to the game will be how well Lucas handles the Cardinals’ pressure. If he takes care of the basketball, and limits his turnovers, that will allow the Spartans to run their offense, and more importantly, keep Louisville out of transition.
Current line: Louisville -6.5
Michigan State is 18-12-1 against the spread, with a record of 3-2 as an underdog.
Louisville is 22-13 against the spread, with a record of 19-12 as the favorite.
Louisville can beat teams playing different styles of basketball. Michigan State can struggle to score. Tempo will be the key. If Michigan State can keep the game in the 60s, they have a chance.
Steve’s pick: Louisville -6.5