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Michigan State Basketball: Louisville Preview

Check out MSU's opponent in this year's B1G/ACC challenge with Louisville headed to East Lansing

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Louisville

Location: East Lansing, MI

Time: 7:15 PM EST 

Channel: ESPN

KenPom Line: MSU -5

Some bullet points on Louisville's playing style

  • The first thing that stands out about Louisville is how dominant they've been over their (inferior) opponents so far. Their lowest margin of victory was 20 over an okay Saint Louis team. However, the toughest opponent they've had so far was North Florida (#105 in KenPom) at home and their overall strength of schedule ranks #333 out of 351. For a comparison, MSU has already played 3 better opponents in Kansas (4), Boise State (60), and Providence (48).
  • From what I can tell they've been dominating team with their size. They're #29 in average height and #12 in effective height (meaning PF and C height only). They're leading the country in offensive rebound percentage as well as 2P% defense. A large part of that is a huge frontline with 5 rotation guys who are 6'9" or taller.
  • The first guy on the scouting report should be Damion Lee who's a fifth-year senior who transferred from Drexel last year where he averaged an efficient 21.4 ppg. Standing at 6'6" he may be the best pure-scorer MSU has faced so far with the ability to both shoot and straight-line drive.
  • Chinanu Onuaku and Mangok Mathiang make up the two-headed big man monster where they both stand 6'10" that helps give them their top 15 offensive rebounding rates and top 30 block rates. They started the first time together in their last game so that might become an issue for MSU on the defensive glass if they have 6'5" Bess or even 6'6" Clark out there.
  • Unlike last year's Cardinals, this team can actually shoot. Along with Lee they also brought in transfer Trey Lewis from Cleveland State who shot better than 40% from 3 on over 6 attempts per game. Lewis and Lee are a little below their averages at the moment but they're definitely guys to cover on the perimeter as well as Quentin Snider (39%).
  • At the moment over 60% of their scoring is coming on 2-pointers (7th nationally) and under 40% of their opponents' scoring is coming on 2-pointers (345th nationally). Right now to me means they're just bullying their overmatched opponents. This team is hard to gauge because they haven't played a team that has given them a challenge.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

[Rebounding on both ends will be key]

    [Louisville is the #1 offensive rebounding team while MSU is the #1 defensive rebounding team. Hopefully #WarDrillU shows its face]

Things to watch for

  • Who's going to keep Louisville off the offensive glass? Bess is a good rebounder for a 6'5" player but he's going to be up against athletic 6'9" to 6'10" players for Louisville. He did okay against Perry Ellis but this might be a bit tougher from a pure rebounding standpoint.
  • Who's going to step up if Valentine can't find his rhythm? Last game against Providence MSU had to improvise a bit more offensively due to Valentine getting in foul trouble. Damion Lee was a first-team all-defensive player at Drexel and might be able to stifle Valentine as well as anyone has this year. Harris is showing more and more promise as an offensive playmaker every game so hopefully that trend continues.

Bottom line

There are some things I really like and don't like for MSU about this matchup. Louisville's size and Lee's combination of offense and defense really scares me. If he can either lock up Valentine or get him into foul trouble, that puts MSU in a really tough place. However, Louisville still likes to press and they run a matchup-zone and both of those things will likely be in MSU's favor due to having so many willing capable passers and capable outside shooters. Despite that I'm not sure I like MSU in this one as the type of defense Louisville runs can be scrapped if it's not working.

Louisville 77 - MSU 73