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MSU vs. Louisville: How they match up

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice continue to be the Spartans' offensive engine.

Backcourt

The tandem of Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine continue to be the spark that ignites the Spartans. Trice scored 24 in the win over Oklahoma and Valentine overcame a slow start to score 13 of his 18 in the second half as well as grab key rebounds, including one on the offensive end in the final minute. Freshman Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn struggled for the first time in the postseason, only playing 11 minutes, but he'll be vital against the Cardinals, likely guarding sophomore Terry Rozier. He was outstanding in Louisville's win over N.C. State, scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. His quickness will be tough to check and it will be key for MSU to stay out of foul trouble. Freshman Quentin Snider has been solid since Chris Jones was dismissed from the team. He played 37 minutes against N.C. State while scoring 14 points and not committing a turnover. Edge: Even.

Frontcourt

Branden Dawson only scored six in the win over Oklahoma but his jumper midway through the second half gave MSU its first lead and he put them back in front seconds later with another shot in the post. He also had 11 rebounds and continued to play outstanding defense while sophomore Gavin Schilling had another decent game, scoring eight and playing 20 minutes. Matching up with Louisville's Montrezl Harrell will be tough, an assignment that will likely fall on Dawson. The two play a similar game but Harrell is more of an offensive threat, scoring 24 against N.C. State, and at 6-foot-8, he's a bit bigger than Dawson. Wayne Blackshear is a wing player who can score in bursts while Mangok Mathiang is a 6-10 shot blocker who doesn't pose much of an offensive threat. Edge: Louisville.

Bench

The Michigan State reserves weren't as productive in the win over Oklahoma, but Matt Costello has been solid throughout the postseason in the block and Bryn Forbes has produced timely scoring and improved defense. Marvin Clark and Alvin Ellis saw limited minutes against Oklahoma but both contributed with Clark grabbing the final rebound to put the game away. The Cardinals lack much depth and two players went the entire 40 minutes in the victory over N.C. State. Anton Gill played only 11 minutes, but he was 3-for-3 and scored seven points down the stretch the help the Cardinals secure the victory. Chinanu Anuaku is 6-10 and has started 26 games this season. Edge: Michigan State.

Coaching

Tom Izzo continues to put up impressive NCAA Tournament numbers, reaching his ninth Elite Eight and second straight while attempting to make his seventh Final Four. He enters the game against Louisville 20-4 in the second game of a tournament weekend and those four losses have all been to either a No. 1 seed or the eventual national champion. Izzo has also won 12 times when MSU is the lower-seeded team. But the guy on the other bench is already in the Hall of Fame and has taken three different programs to the Final Four. Rick Pitino was also the first to win a championship at two different schools — Kentucky, Louisville — and he is second in NCAA Tournament winning percentage among active coaches, trailing only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski Edge: Even.