Louisville and Michigan State are set to square off in the only Elite 8 matchup that doesn't have a one-seed, but both have shown they're worthy of making the Final Four. The Cardinals managed to avoid being upset by UC Irvine, then beat Northern Iowa and NC State in convincing fashion. The Spartans beat Georgia before knocking off two-seed Virginia and three-seed Oklahoma.
Projected Starting Lineups
(4) Louisville Cardinals (27-8, 12-6 in ACC)
G Quentin Snider (Fr.) – 3.2 ppg, 1.2 apg
G Terry Rozier (So.) – 17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg
G Wayne Blackshear (Sr.) – 10.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg
F Montrezl Harrell (Jr.) – 15.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg
F Chinanu Onuaku (Fr.) – 3.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg
(7) Michigan State Spartans (26-11, 12-6 in Big Ten)
G Travis Trice (Sr.) – 15.1 ppg, 5.2 apg
G Denzel Valentine (Jr.) – 14.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
G Lourawls Nairn Jr. (Fr.) – 2.2 ppg, 2.5 apg
F Branden Dawson (Sr.) – 11.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg
F Gavin Schilling (So.) – 5.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg
What to watch for:
Montrezl Harrell vs. Michigan State's big men
Harrell is the emotional leader for this Louisville team, and his intensity sets the tone for everyone else. He’s a force around the rim that grabs every rebound that comes anywhere near him, and his shot-blocking ability has to be accounted for every time the opposition attacks the basket. Terry Rozier has been Louisville's leading scorer throughout the tournament, but they need Harrell to be productive to win this game.
Michigan State's offense vs. Louisville's defense
A trademark of any Tom Izzo team is unselfishness and ball movement, and Michigan State ranks among the best teams in the country in assists (17.2 per game). The Spartans have weapons that can hurt you all over the court, and because they’re so willing to share the ball, it makes Michigan State’s offense unpredictable.
Their offensive efficiency will be tested by Rick Pitino’s patented pressure defense that forces a lot of turnovers, as they rank 17th in the country in steals per game. Harrell and Onuaku also deter teams from attacking the rim, helping the Cardinals rank in the top 20 in the country in blocks (5.5 per game). Their perimeter pressure and shot blocking ability hold the opposition to just 59.5 points per game, giving them a chance to win every game they’re in.
Something has to give in this matchup, and whoever holds the advantage on this side of the court will be able to control the tempo and win this game.
Prediction: Louisville wins 75-73
This game is a total toss up between two of the best coaches in the country, and it should come down to the wire. However, I think Terry Rozier's scoring ability will be the difference, and Louisville will grab the narrow victory.
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