In the west: Michigan State vs Louisville

How they got here: Michigan State (29-7) easily got through their opener with LIU, and then needed late game heroics to fend off St. Louis.

Louisville (28-7)  survived their opening game for the first time in three years, beating Davidson by seven. Next, they stemmed a late rally by New Mexico and won by three.

Three things Louisville fans should know about Michigan State:

  • Michigan State is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation. They grab 37% of their own misses (25th nationally). Louisville is 223rd in defensive rebounding.
  • Draymond Green is ranked first in Ken Pomeroy’s national player of the year standings, and his game is as gaudy as his numbers. He’s averaging a double-double and throws in 4 assists as well. His block% and steal% are elite, and he draws 5 fouls a game.
  • Austin Thornton might be the least talked about starter, but don’t sleep on him. He’s got the 4th best offensive rating in the nation, though he only takes 10% of the shots when he’s on the floor. He makes half his 2s, 47% of his 3s and 87% of his free throws.

Three things Michigan State fans should know about Louisville:

  • Since tempo free data became available, 26 teams have been seeded 12th or better with an offense worse than 100th. Louisville’s is 113. Of those 26, only two have advanced as far as the Sweet 16. The Cardinals would be the first severely offensively challenged team to make the Elite 8.
  • When Russ Smith comes in the game, guard him. The Louisville guard takes over 35% of their shots when he’s on the floor. To put that in perspective, Draymond Green – who has taken 155 shots more than any other Spartan – attempts 28% of their shots.
  • Louisville’s defense is legit. They’re 2nd in the nation in defensive efficiency, and have held 10 straight opponents under a point per possession. Since the beginning of conference play, the Spartans are 2-3 when they fail to score more than a point per possession.

Key players:

Keith Appling, 6-1, SO, Michigan State: Louisville’s pressure defense can be intense, and Appling has occasional turnover woes. If Appling can consistently get Michigan State smoothly into their half court sets, they should win this one.

Kyle Kuric, 6-4, SR, Louisville: Michigan State is too good of a team to beat simply with elite defense. Someone from Louisville is going to have to step up and have a big offensive game. Kuric, who converted 45% of his 3s last season, could be the player to break out. He’s been Louisville’s most consistent scorer, though he’s only shot 33% from beyond the arc this season.

Most googled terms during out-of-conference play:

  • Michigan State: how many years has draymond green been a spartan?
  • Louisville: where do i find a white suit?

Last Elite-8 appearance:

  • Michigan State: 2010
  • Louisville: 2009