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Of the 16 teams that are left standing in the field, there are only three that won their conference tournaments. Two of the three are in action on Thursday night in Phoenix, where we make our Sweet 16 picks in the clash between the Louisville Cardinals and the Michigan State Spartans.
Sweet 16 Matchup: #4 Louisville Cardinals vs. #1 Michigan State Spartans
Date: Thursday, March 22nd, 7:45 ET
Location: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
Sweet 16 Odds: Michigan State -5
NCAA Tournament TV Schedule: TBS
There is really only one major difference between these two teams. For Louisville, the only path to winning this game is likely going to be through its defense. This is a team that plays outstanding ball on this side of the court, and the amount of blocked shots that Gorgui Dieng and the crew get are out of this world. That’s why this is the team ranked No. 2 in the nation in opponents’ field goal shooting percentage. Michigan State can lock in the defense or get the job done with its stars taking over games on the offensive end of the court.
Louisville has a great team, as demonstrated by the fact that it won the Big East Tournament, arguably the toughest tournament for a team to win because in this case, the Cards had to win four games in four days at Madison Square Garden. The Cardinals have been winning the tight games as well, something that they didn’t do last year in the NCAA Tournament against the Morehead State Eagles. The team plays its tight defense, but it also likes to play a high octane style, and that is a style that we really might see a lot of in the Sweet 16 with both of these teams having a few days to get their legs back underneath them.
Peyton Siva and Keith Appling are two fantastic guards, and they are going to have to be the ones that get their teams off and running. Both tend to turn the ball over a bit much, but they are both keys for their team. Though Louisville has plenty of players with the potential to get to double digits in scoring, it doesn’t have a man like Draymond Green out there on the court. At just 6’7″, Green plays like a man that is a heck of a lot bigger. He is averaging a double-double per game this year, but he is a great passer as well, averaging just short of four assists per game. He is an asset on both sides of the court, and with one triple-double already in this tourney, Green is one man that can really take this game over all by himself.
We do think that Michigan State is going to find some way to survive this game. The deeper the tourney goes, the more dangerous that the Spartans and their championship winning Head Coach Tom Izzo really are. The Cardinals will stick inside of the number, but we think that that will be their only solace, as they have to head back to Louisville with nothing more than a claim to being in the Sweet 16 in 2012. We just trust that when push comes to shove, Green is going to get the job done for the Spartans, and he’ll make the difference.
Sweet 16 Free Pick: Louisville Cardinals +5
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse Projected Final Score: Michigan State 71 – Louisville 67