5 things MSU must do to beat Louisville
Syracuse, N.Y. — Michigan State will get a shot at a spot in the Final Four on Sunday afternoon when it takes on Louisville.
It would be the first time the Spartans have gotten that far since 2010 and the seventh appearance for coach Tom Izzo. He has faced Louisville coach Rick Pitino twice in the NCAA Tournament with each winning once.
The Spartans beat the Cardinals in the Elite Eight in 2009 on their way to reaching the national title game while Louisville defeated Michigan State in the Sweet 16 in 2012.
Here are some of the keys for Michigan State to regain the edge and get back to the Final Four:
This is easier than it sounds, but Michigan State senior Branden Dawson will have to match the energy of Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell. Both play the same type of game and Harrell suggested on Saturday there was no way Dawson could match his energy. While that might motivate Dawson, he has shown the postseason is motivation enough. He only scored six points in the win over Oklahoma but he was averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds prior to that.
Hit the glass
Michigan State was the best rebounding team in the Big Ten but has been beaten on the glass in each of its three NCAA Tournament games. The Spartans also gave up 14 offensive rebounds against Oklahoma and 18 in a win over Virginia. Winning that battle today and keeping the Cardinals from loading up on second-chance points will not only bottle up the Louisville big men but it will likely spark Michigan State's fast break.
Stay out of foul trouble
It has been an issue all season with centers Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling, and it will be vital for both to stay in the game. Schilling has played better the last two games while Costello has the ability to score on the block and come up with a timely blocked shot. The bigger key might be freshman guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn. He'll be tasked with slowing down Louisville guard Terry Rozier, but fouls have hampered him the past few games. He is the only player with the quickness to stick with Rozier and staying off the bench will be huge.
Hang on to the ball
Michigan State has done a decent job all year of limiting turnovers, but the Spartans have been exceptional during the NCAA Tournament. In the win over Georgia, Michigan State gave the ball up nine times. But in the win over Virginia, the Spartans cut that number to six and then gave it away just five times in the victory over Oklahoma. It was the fewest amount of turnovers for the Spartans all season and a repeat performance against Louisville could be the ticket to another victory.
Ride the big three
Seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson along with junior Denzel Valentine have been the heart of Michigan State's team all season and that won't change in this matchup. The bench has had its moments, but the Spartans' three best players need to be their best once again. Trice has been Michigan State's most reliable scorer while Valentine keeps the offense humming while hitting big shots, grabbing rebounds and defending some of the best players on the other side. Dawson's energy brings it all together. Get all three firing against Louisville and the Spartans will be back in the Final Four.