NO. 22 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (5-0) At NO. 3 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (7-0)
Game Time: 7:17 p.m.
Location: Breslin Center: East Lansing, Mich.
Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Dan Dakich (analyst), and Allison Williams (sideline)
Favorite: Michigan State by 5.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 5-4
Last Meeting: Michigan State won 76-70 (OT) in the East Regional final of the 2015 NCAA Tournament
Probable Starting Lineups:
About Michigan State:
Unbeaten and ranked No. 3 in the country, Michigan State enters Wednesday night's game against Louisville leading the nation in assists (23.7), and ranking third in rebounding margin (+18.3) and assist-to-turnovers ratio (2.05). The Spartans notched a monster neutral court win over Kansas in the Legends Classic to start the season, and last week won the Wooden Legacy championship by defeating Boston College, Boise State and Providence.
No one has made more of an early case for national Player of the Year than Spartan senior Denzel Valentine, who is averaging an unreal 19.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 8.6 assists through seven games. He's already posted a pair of triple-doubles, the first coming in the season's best individual performance against Kansas, and the second coming against Boston College.
As good as Valentine has been, he's only one part of a lethal Spartan scoring attack that has averaged 85 points per game up to this point. Bryn Forbes, who hit the first 3-pointer in overtime against Louisville last March, is team's second-leading scorer (11.4 ppg) and most consistent outside threat. Freshman Deyonta Davis appears poised to fill the shoes left behind by Branden Dawson as a capable scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker in the post. Also don't be surprised if this is coming out party of sorts for transfer guard Eron Harris. He averaged almost 18 points per game at West Virginia, but his status as a defensive liability has kept him from making a monster impact in his first seven games for MSU. He could be a difference maker tonight if both teams are filling it up.
--Wednesday's game is a part of the annual ACC/Big 10 Challenge. The two conferences enter the final night of play tied at four wins apiece. After winning the event in each of its first 10 years of existence, the ACC has not claimed superiority over the Big 10 since 2008.
--Louisville is 1-0 all-time in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, defeating Ohio State at home last season.
--Michigan State is 6-9 all-time in the challenge, but is 5-2 at home.
--Louisville and Michigan State are two of just 14 Division-I teams that have won multiple national championships.
--The Cardinals and Spartans are the only two teams in the country that have advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four years.
--UofL leads the nation in rebounding margin (+21.4) and scoring margin (+33.6), is second in scoring defense (51.2), and third in field goal percentage defense (.324).
--Michigan State is averaging a nation's best 23.7 assists, and recording an assist on 166 of 210 field goals (79.0 percent). Last season, MSU established a school single-season record with 646 assists, leading the Big Ten and ranking fifth in the nation with 16.6 per contest
--Louisville has committed nine or fewer turnovers in seven of its last nine games dating back to last season. The Cards lead the ACC in turnover margin (+5.2, 24th in NCAA).
--Louisville has won five consecutive road openers, and is 10-4 in road openers under the direction of Rick Pitino.
--Louisville and Michigan State are two of just 24 undefeated teams remaining in Division-I.
--While Louisville leads the nation with a plus-21.4 rebound differential, Michigan State sits in third at plus-18.3. They had 41 boards apiece in the Elite Eight matchup.
--Wednesday night will be Rick Pitino's 500th game as Louisville's head coach. Pitino owns a record of 372-126 with the Cardinals.
--Louisville has started 5-0 for the sixth consecutive season.
--The Cards have opened with an 11-1 record each of the last three seasons.
--U of L has opened a season with five wins by 15 points or more for the first time in program history.
--Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino have each made seven Final Four appearances, ranking tied for fourth all-time, and tied for second among active coaches, trailing only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (12).
--Louisville's 128 victories over the last five years are the second-most wins in the nation in that stretch. Louisville and Wichita State are the only schools in the nation to win 30 games in three of the last four seasons, including a school-record 35 victories amassed by Louisville's 2012-13 NCAA Championship team.
--Louisville is 20-2 in the month of December over the past three seasons.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Michigan State 70, Louisville 65