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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Preview: Michigan St. vs. Louisville

izzo:pitino

My power ratings have Michigan State as the eleventh-best team in the nation followed closely by Louisville in the 18th spot. My proprietary power numbers also have this game rated close to the existing point spread:

Oskeim Sports Power Ratings:

Michigan State: 96.8
Louisville: 96.4

While Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo deserves a lot of credit for leading the Spartans to the Elite Eight Round of the NCAA Tournament, one cannot overlook the fact that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is an incredible 25-3 SU and 22-6 ATS in post-season games over the last four years, including 15-2 SU and 16-1 ATS versus No. 7 or higher seeds.

The Cardinals are also a profitable 26-10 ATS in neutral site games, 12-5 ATS in their last seventeen NCAA Tournament games and 4-0-1 ATS in their last five against Big Ten Conference foes.

Defense will rule the day in this game as both teams are stout at the defensive end of the floor. Louisville is allowing 59.4 points per game to teams that would combine to average 69.1 points per game (9.7 points per game better than average), while the Spartans are yielding 63.0 points per game to teams that would combine to average 68.7 points per game (5.7 points per game better than average).  And, despite the loss of defensive standout Chris Jones, who was initially suspended and ultimately dismissed from the program back in February (subsequently charged with rape and sodomy), the Cardinals’ defense has remained solid.

Indeed, Louisville is allowing just 60.0 points over its last five games, including giving up a combined 173 points in the NCAA Tournament (57.6 points per game). Meanwhile, Michigan State arrives in the Elite 8 with a scuffling offense that is averaging just 64.6 points over the last five games.

Overall, the Spartans are 6.7 points per game better than average offensively (71.2 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 64.5 points per game), which is not good enough to penetrate Louisville’s stop unit. The Cardinals are superior in the following defensive categories:

Defensive Rankings – Louisville:

  • 9th in total blocks (187)
  • 13th in blocked shots per game (5.3)
  • 17th in scoring defense (59.4)
  • 22nd in field-goal percentage defense (39.0%)
  • 12th in three-point field goal defense (30.0%)
  • 15th in total steals (277)
  • 22nd in steals per game (7.9)

Another issue facing Michigan State is its inability to convert at the free throw line. The Spartans are shooting 62.8% from the charity stripe this season (63.9% L/5 games), whereas Louisville is making 68.1% of its free throw attempts on the road and 72.6% over the last five games.

I also like the fact that Louisville takes good care of the ball, ranking 29th nationally in turnover margin (2.7). Incidentally, Michigan State ranks 206th in the country with a -0.4 turnover margin.  Finally, No. 4 seeds (Louisville) are 11-2 ATS in the Elite 8 Round of the NCAA Tournament, whereas No. 7 seeds (Michigan State) are 1-6 SU. Louisville also applies to a very good 31-6 ATS situation of mine that includes a near-perfect 11-1 ATS subset angle. Grab the points and invest with confidence.

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