Two legendary coaches in Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo along with two elite college basketball teams in Louisville and Michigan State we’ve seen some great battles between these coaches and teams in the NCAA Tourney in recent years. With the latest coming a few months ago in the Elite 8 when Michigan State evened up the tourney series to 2-2 when they beat our Cards in overtime to advance to the Final Four. We have grown accustomed to the possibility of these teams facing off in the NCAA Tournament every year, but now these teams are headed for an early match-up in the Big 10/ACC challenge tonight at 7:15pm on ESPN.
The Louisville vs Michigan State head to head record stands at 5-4. These teams first met in 1959 in the Mideast Regional final with the Cards winning that game 88-81 with the most recent game back on March 29th in the Regional Finals where Michigan State prevailed in Overtime 76-70 against the Cards.
It has become a staple of Izzo and Michigan State to play these early tough non-conference games and by seasons end, this bunch is toughened up and ready to make a deep run in the win-or-go-home Big Dance. The names change, but the recipe for success remains the same for the Spartans excellent coaching, balanced scoring, relentless rebounding and very solid defense. They usually do a pretty good job at guarding the 3 point line and that will be a factor in tonight’s game. Izzo’s offense features three starters who average in double figures (Valentine, Forbes and Davis) and another who is close to doing so (Bess). If they miss their first shooting try, everyone pounds the glass for the Spartans. Michigan State teams are always very strong and physical and this allows them to implement the two annual tenets of Izzo Ball: intense man-to-man defense and relentless rebounding. The 2015 Spartans are stout defenders (39% field goal percentage allowed) and great glass-eaters (44 per game).
Denzel Valentine (19.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG)
Bryn Forbes (11.4 PPG, 1.6 RPG)
Deyonta Davis (10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG)
Javon Bess (8.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG)
Matt Costello (7.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
Eron Harris (6.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
Lourawls Nairn Jr.(4.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG)
Offensive Adjustment Efficiency 115.1 ranked #6
Defensive Adjustment Efficiency 93.7 ranked #20
Kenpom Game Prediction: Louisville 65 Mich St. 70
Louisville currently has the 3rd ranked team in field goal defense and the 1st ranked team in scoring defense. I think these will play a big part in this game tonight along with offensive and defensive rebounding. They hit the broads hard and if we could neutralize that strength its half the battle. And if the Cardinals can get some of the key MSU starters into foul difficulty the odds of beating them improve because their bench is not that great.
We are going to need a big night out of our perimeter players and need Quentin, Damion, and Trey to hit some shots. I think Mango and Nanu will also need to have very solid nights and need to really hit the boards and play good defense inside the post. Nanu had foul problems the last time out and that would be a killer if he has to sit for a long period of time tonight. Mango was the MVP Saturday night and I hope some of the inspiring play can work its way into the game tonight. I know he is thinking about that game back in March and wants a little payback.
The way our offense has been trending upward lately is a very positive sign heading into this tough early season game. For the first time in a long time this Louisville team can score in a variety of ways and from every position on the court. Their 33.6 point average margin of victory is the largest through the first 5 games of any season in school history. And as usual the defense is legit. Folks taking into account all these factors I like the Cardinals chances tonight.
The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 80 Mich St. 75