NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Predictions West Region: 1. Michigan State vs. 4. Louisville

By: Kels Dayton

1   Michigan State (29-7, Big Ten)

Draymond Green is the most unique player in the tournament, having posted a triple-double against Long Island in Round 2. (AP Photo)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Spartans ousted LIU-Brooklyn and snuck past Saint Louis on their way to the Sweet 16. Draymond Green recorded a triple-double (24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) in the win over LIU.

BURNING QUESTION: Can Draymond Green pull a Magic Johnson/Mateen Cleaves and lead MSU to a title? Like Cleaves and that guy named Earvin Johnson, who both won national championships at Michigan State, Green is a unique personality. He’s gregarious and outgoing, but on the court he’s a fiery competitor and the heart-and-soul leader of this Spartans team. Now, it’s time

KEYS TO WINNING THE REGION: Guardplay. Green is a unique, point-center type player, and no one is going to be able to contain him. So, if Michigan State can get solid production from guards Keith Appling (11.5 ppg), and Brandon Wood (8.6 ppg), the Spartans will have a good chance to advance.

X-FACTOR: Brandon Wood. The 6-2 transfer from Valparaiso averaged 8.6 points per game but has hit some big shots down the stretch for the Spartans. Wood averaged 17 points per game at Valpo as a junior, and  can easily go off for 15 or 20. If he does, the Spartans will be tough to beat.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Green pulls off a virtuoso performance in the Sweet 16, and Michigan State outmuscles Louisville. The Spartans advance to take on Florida, who has a rough shooting day and is buried on the glass. MSU marches on to Tom Izzo’s seventh Final Four.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Louisville does to Michigan State what the Spartans did to them in 2009, knocking them off of their No. 1 perch by controlling the pace of play and dominating with guards Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric.

CHANCES OF WINNING REGION: 28%. Michigan State is tough, and has cagey veterans who have been here before. They’ve also got the best tournament coach in the region (with apologies to Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan), and the best collegiate player in the region. The Spartans should be the favorite to cut down the nets in the West.


 Louisville (28-9, Big East)

Louisville guard Peyton Siva. (Photo: Dime Magazine)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Cards outclassed Southern Conference champion Davidson, 69-62, before holding off a furious New Mexico rally to knock the Lobos out, 59-56. Louisville has now won six straight games in March, and is red-hot at the perfect time.

BURNING QUESTION: Will the Louisville bigs be able to hang with Michigan State? Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and the rest of the Cards’ front line will have to rebound against the notoriously tough Spartans, which have absolutely killed teams on the glass under Tom Izzo.

KEYS TO WINNING THE REGION: L’ville will need to get a lot of production from Chris and Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Kyle Kuric in order to advance to the Final Four out of the West.

X-FACTOR: Senior guard Kyle Kuric. Kuric averaged 13.1 points per game this season, and shot 33 percent from long-range. Louisville expected a little more from him, but he has a chance to make his entire season by exploding for a 20-plus point game in the tournament.

Freshman forward Chane Behanan. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Russ Smith, Kyle Kuric, and Chane Behanan all have big games, and Peyton Siva works his magic as the Cardinals push past the Spartans in the Sweet 16. Louisville then meets Marquette, which it handled in the Big East tournament, in the Elite Eight. The Cards prove that they have Marquette’s number, rolling over the Golden Eagles en route to the Final Four.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Draymond Green works his magic, and Louisville goes down in the Sweet 16. The Spartans get big games from Keith Appling and Brandon Wood, and aren’t phased by Louisville’s pressure defense. Michigan State

CHANCES OF WINNING REGION: 23%. Louisville is tough to prepare for in a one-game setting because their pressure defense can sink you–and quick. This team has some key seniors in Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric, but is young everywhere else. It wouldn’t be shocking to watch Rick Pitino lead this group to the Final Four, but it’s not the most likely scenario in this balanced region.

PREDICTION: Michigan State .

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