Michigan State basketball vs. Louisville tipoff: Matchup analysis and a prediction

·4 min read
Louisville's leading scorer, Noah Locke, reacts after hitting a 3-point shot earlier this season.
Louisville's leading scorer, Noah Locke, reacts after hitting a 3-point shot earlier this season.

• What: Michigan State vs. Louisville, ACC / Big Ten Challenge

• When: 7:15 p.m. Wednesday

• Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing

• TV/Radio: ESPN/Spartan Sports Network radio, including WJIM 1240-AM and WMMQ 94.9-FM; Sirius/XM Ch. 372 (home broadcast)

Records/Rankings: MSU is 5-2 and ranked No. 22 in the latest Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. Louisville is 5-1 and unranked.

• Coaches: MSU — Tom Izzo is 648-256 in his 27th season as a head coach, all with the Spartans. Louisville — Chris Mack is 277-126 in his 13th season as a head coach, including 62-29 in his fourth season with the Cardinals.

• Series: MSU is 5-6 against Louisville all-time, losing the most recent matchup in overtime at Louisville three years ago. The series also includes an MSU win at Breslin Center in December of 2015 and the Elite Eight win in Syracuse months earlier.

• Vegas line: MSU by 5

Lineups

MSU

C (30) Marcus Bingham Jr. (7-0) 10.9

PF (25) Malik Hall (6-8) 9.0

SF (44) Gabe Brown (6-8) 13.4

SG (1) Max Christie (6-6) 7.9

PG (0) Tyson Walker (6-0) 5.6

Louisville

C (5) Malik Williams (6-11) 8.0

F (24) Jae'Lyn Withers (6-8) 7.7

G (14) Dre Davis (6-6) 7.8

G (0) Noah Locke (6-3) 13.0

G (13) Jarrod West (5-11) 6.7

• MSU update: The Spartans are coming off a mostly promising showing over three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis last week, beating Loyola Chicago and Connecticut, before falling to Baylor in the championship game. Malik Hall seems to have taken over the starting power forward spot, buoyed by his 24-point, perfect-shooting showing against Loyola, though he did very little on the scoring front over the next two games. Tom Izzo said Hall rolled his ankle against UConn, and it impacted him against Baylor. MSU freshman Max Christie had a humbling week in the Bahamas, scoring nine total points over three games and making just 4 of 21 shots. Where the Spartans are making hay is on the defensive end, with opposing teams shooting less than 38% against them. Their adjusted defensive efficiency, per Kenpom.com, is second-best nationally. Marcus Bingham Jr.’s rim protection, including 3.4 blocks per game, has helped that.

MORE: Tom Izzo sees MSU's pieces coming together

• Louisville update: The Cardinals get head coach Chris Mack back for Wednesday's game after he finished serving a six-game suspension to start the season. Without Mack, Louisville had one bad loss, at home in overtime against Furman, but has been good of late, including winning both games at a tournament in the Bahamas last week (a different tournament than what MSU participated in). The Cardinals pounded Mississippi State (a roster that includes MSU transfer Rocket Watts) and then beat what I think is a underrated Maryland team in the championship game. Louisville is averaging more than 25 3-point attempts per game, but making less than 30% of them. The Cardinals’ strength thus far is their defense and rebounding. For example, they out-rebounded Maryland 51-25, including 17-2 on the offensive end.

• Inside the matchup: Louisville has held all but two their opponents to 60 points or less this season, including Mississippi State and Maryland, who both scored in the 50s. The Cardinals offensively, though, can be as ugly as they sometimes make their opponents. They’ve got seven players who’ve launched at least 11 3 pointers this season. Only one of them, reserve forward Matt Cross, is making at least 35% of their attempts. Noah Locke, who began his career at Florida and played against the Spartans three years ago, is a versatile guard, who can create his own shot and plays under control. If he gets going shooting the ball, he’s a problem. He’ll likely be matched up against Christie, who’s got a few inches on him, but has struggled offensively of late. Samuel Williamson, who comes off the bench but plays a ton for Louisville, is a Malik Hall-type player whose toughness, defense and rebounding adds a lot to the Cardinals.

• Prediction: If the Spartans’ point guards take care of them and Louisville’s 3-pointers don’t suddenly start dropping, I think MSU wins this game, especially at home. But beyond Gabe Brown, there has been very little consistency to the Spartans’ offense. That has to begin to change.

Make it: MSU 76, Louisville 72

MORE: Couch: 3 quick takes on MSU's 75-58 loss to Baylor in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship

Contact Graham Couch at gcouch@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: MSU basketball vs. Louisville: Prediction, preview; how to bet, watch

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