Who's the West's best? West Regional Sweet 16 preview
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 4 Louisville Cardinals, West Regional at the US Airways Center, Phoenix, Ariz. Thursday, March 22, 7:47 p.m. ET, TBS
How they got here:
Second Round: No. 1 Michigan State defeated No. 16 LIU Brooklyn, 89-67.
Third Round: No. 1 Michigan State defeated No. 9 Saint Louis, 65-61.
Second Round: No. 4 Louisville defeated No. 13 Davidson, 69-62.
Third Round: No. 4 Louisville defeated No. 5 New Mexico, 59-56.
Michigan State (29-7) has had the best player on the court in both of its first two games in senior do-everything forward Draymond Green. Green posted a triple-double (24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) in the Spartans second-round bludgeoning of LIU Brooklyn.
Green was almost good in a close win over Saint Louis. He had 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to lead the way for Michigan State. It was Keith Appling, however, that hit the big three-pointer in that win to seal the Spartans' victory.
Louisville (28-9) has played two tight games, but won them both in typical Rick Pitino fashion--with good coaching and aggressive, trapping defense.
This is by no means Pitino's most talented squad, but they sure are dangerous. After an up-and-down season the Cardinals went on a run in the Big East Tournament and won the title--and they've kept rolling through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament.
This game, with two of the best coaches in the NCAA, could very well be a grind-it-out contest played in the 50s.
No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. No. 7 Florida Gators, West Regional at the US Airways Center, Phoenix, Ariz. Thursday, March 22, 10:17 p.m. ET.
How they got here:
No. 3 Marquette defeated No. 14 BYU, 88-68.
No. 3 Marquette defeated No. 6 Murray State, 62-53.
No. 7 Florida defeated No. 10 Virginia, 71-45
No. 7 Florida defeated No. 15 Norfolk State, 84-50.
The Golden Eagles (27-7), behind the play of their two stars, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, cruised to victory in their first two NCAA Tournament games. In the second-round rout of BYU, Crowder posted 25 points and 16 rebounds and in their third-round defeat of Murray State he had another double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Johnson-Odom added 17 points in handing the Racers only their second loss of the season.
Marquette was likely expecting to run into Missouri in the Sweet 16, but the Tigers flopped in their first game, paving the way for the Gators who have looked mighty impressive--albeit against two inferior opponents--in advancing to the Sweet 16.
The Gators (25-10) pulverized Virginia, 71-45 despite going just 4-for-23 on three pointers, the team's bread and butter. Against Norfolk State, Florida jumped out to a 29-6 lead and never looked back. Their outside shooting was better against the Spartans, going 10-for-28 from distance.
The most impressive thing about Florida's first two wins has been their defense. Not always heralded as a top-notch defensive squad, opponents are averaging just 47.5 points per game agains the Gators in the tournament.