The Midwest region had its share of upsets to provide a compelling matchup between Louisville and Oregon. Both of these teams are surging at the right time. Louisville is firing on all cylinders with every player. Their depth at each position has given the opposition a lot of trouble. The length of Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell is making it difficult for opponents to score inside the paint, while the aggressiveness of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith has made it difficult on opposing guards. Louisville has forced many turnovers in their first two games including a recors 20 in their first contest.
Even though Oregon is more disciplined and has stronger ball handlers in Johnathan Loyd, Dominic Artis, and Damyean Dotson, Louisville still has the edge. A team can’t simulate the pressure of Louisville’s defense in practice. The Ducks are also a deep team, with Carlos Emory, EJ Singler, Tony Woods, and Arsalan Kazemi providing a strong front court rotation. This will be an incredibly hard fought game, and I think whichever team controls the backboards will advance to the Elite 8. Look for Louisville’s edge in size and length to help them control the glass and move on the regional semifinal.
It doesn’t get much better in the other Sweet 16 matchup in this region. Michigan State and Duke, #3 vs. #2. Tom Izzo vs. Coach K. This game will be determined by two factors. The first is the guard play. If Keith Appling can get his team going, the Spartans will have a serious edge. Duke’s Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon have been solid in the first two rounds, but will need to be even better to offset Appling and Branden Dawson. The other key factor in this game is who dominates in the paint.
Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have been on a hot streak both scoring and rebounding. If Mason Plumlee can provide containment inside, this will be a much more even game. If the Spartans’s bigs continue to dominate, Michigan State will win. One of the key matchups will be Payne vs. Ryan Kelly, who has been solid since his return from foot surgery. This game will be close from start to finish and decided in the final few minutes. It’s so difficult to pick a winner because both teams are well coached and generally play their best in March. I’ll give the edge to the Spartans, who have been rock solid all around so far in the tournament.
Amit Tailor is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.