Louisville head coach Rick Pitino looks like Al Pacino. He also tends to motivate his men like Al, and this leads to problems.
Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans have become an unlikely Final Four candidate. For those of us who have watched the Spartans play all year, did you think they would be here in December? Regardless of the outcome of this afternoon’s game, this team has a lot to hang their hats on.
Matchups of the Game:
Montrezl Harrell and Branden Dawson: This is what the season comes down to for Izzo. As the ever enigmatic Dawson goes, so too do the Spartans. If Branden can get a double-double today with a couple blocks on Harrell, they’re in. Look for a lot of physical play. Branden needs to limit Harrell on the boards offensively and defensively for State to get some second shots on the Cardinal defense.
Travis Trice and Terry Rozier: Two former Ohio Basketball studs square off against each other with a shot at a Final Four. Look for Travis to come out early and score when the Spartans need it. That has seemed to be his role during the tournament, a steady scoring option and solid defensive player. Don’t expect another outburst like we saw at Virginia, although it would be sweet. If Trice and Dawson both score in double digits, the Spartans advance to the Final Four.
Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino: You know these men. Their individual legacies are sterling, and their players play their hardest in the month of March. This game is not going to be a blowout by any stretch of the imagination. While Pitino has had a much longer career than Izzo, he began coaching in 1978, the two have nearly identical records in the tournament: (Pitino: 53-17 (.757), Izzo: 45-16 (.738)) This battle of sideline sultans should make for quite a game. Get some popcorn folks.
Prediction: MSU 64 Louisville 61