Sweet 16 Preview: Louisville vs Michigan State
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Tonight’s West Regional semifinal has the makings of a sizzler in the desert as the fast and furious Cardinals trying to run past the Spartans of Michigan State. This game will not lack one thing…toughness. Each of these teams is coached by a legend and the main thing they both preach is toughness.
The game will also features two of the nation’s best coaches, great basketball minds who thrive on the adapt-on-the-fly nature of the NCAA tournament.
Tom Izzo has been the king of consistency during his 17 seasons in East Lansing, leading the Spartans to the Final Four six times, including three straight from 1999-2001 and a national championship in 2000. He’s led Michigan State to the NCAA tournament 14 straight years and into the round of 16 in 10 of the past 15 seasons and his teams rarely lose as the favorite.
Rick Pitino has had his share, too. He has gone to the Final Four five times and is the first coach to take three different teams there. Pitino led Kentucky to the 1986 national championship, took Louisville to the Final Four in 2005 and picked up his 600th career victory in the Cardinals’ opener this season.
No matter where he’s been, the 59-year-old coach has instituted a push-the-pace style, his teams relying on 3-pointers and defensive pressure to create easy baskets on the break. The Cardinals were inconsistent at times this season, but picked up steam at the end, winning four games in four days to earn the Big East championship before beating Davidson and New Mexico to open the NCAA tournament.
An ability to adapt has been the core of Izzo’s success. The Spartans play in the elbow-and-shoulder-filled Big Ten, but can transition to almost any style. They showed off their versatility the last time these teams met in the NCAA tournament, repeatedly breaking Louisville’s press during a 64-52 win that sent them to the 2009 Final Four in Detroit.
Michigan State has adapted well in this year’s tournament, too, outrunning Long Island in its opener before grinding out a victory over Saint Louis.
When Izzo was considering a jump to the NBA to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, he consulted with several coaches and friends before making his decision. One of those confidants was Pitino, who had stints coaching the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics and advised Izzo not to go.
Izzo didn’t and now Pitino has to find a way to outsmart him. It should be fun to watch. We see The Spartans taking this one down in a great game all the way to the finish. Scoring could come in bunches, so we think the score will end up around 71-68 MSU.