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Louisville-Michigan State preview: Cards hit the road for ACC-Big 10 Challenge

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This marks the sixth meeting since 2009 between two of college basketball’s biggest powerhouses.

Michigan State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (5-1) at Michigan State Spartans (5-2)

ACC-Big 10 Challenge

Game Time: 7:16 p.m.

Location: Breslin Center: East Lansing, Mich.

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Jay Bilas (analyst), and Myron Medcalf (sideline)

Favorite: Michigan State by 4

Officials: TBA

Series: Louisville leads, 6-5

Last Meeting: Louisville won 82-78 in overtime on Nov. 27, 2018 at the KFC Yum Center in the 2018 ACC-Big 10 Challenge

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Michigan State’s Season to Date:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Michigan State:

Ranked No. 22 in the current AP top 25 poll, Michigan State enters Wednesday night’s game against Louisville coming off of a strong performance in last week’s Battle 4 Atlantis. The Spartans disposed of Loyola-Chicago and nationally-ranked UConn before falling to unbeaten reigning national champion Baylor in the title game. MSU’s only other loss so far this season came in its season-opener, an 87-74 defeat to No. 3 Kansas in the Champions Classic.

On paper, Michigan State is eerily similar to Louisville. The Spartans, like the Cardinals, don’t have anything resembling a star and instead get the job done via committee. Also like U of L, their offense has been erratic at time so far this season, and they’ve won their most important games primarily with defense and toughness on the boards.

The most consistent Spartan so far this season has been without question senior Gabe Brown. The 6’8 forward is averaging career bests pretty much across the board, and has scored nine or more points in all seven of MSU’s games so far. Due to his lack of athleticism, Brown has more or less been mostly a spot-up forward throughout his college career. This season, however, he’s been more assertive and has been using his shooting ability to open up other aspects of his game. Jae’Lyn Withers, Dre Davis, Matt Cross, and whoever else might be checking Brown will need to be locked in defensively.

Malik Hall has been a bit of an enigma in all three of his seasons with Sparty, and this one is no exception. The 6’8 junior seems to have every skill necessary to be a star at this level, but only seems capable of putting it all together for four or five games a year. One of those occurrences was last week, when he went 9-for-9 from the field and scored a game-high 24 points to go along with seven rebounds in MSU’s win over Loyola. He then scored a combined five points in Michigan State’s next two games in Atlantis.

Hall has a bit of a Jae’Lyn Withers thing going where if he makes a few shots early on, he gets more engaged on both ends of the floor and usually has a monster night. If he doesn’t, he has a tendency to disappear. U of L has to make sure that this is a slow starter night for Hall, because his play can absolutely be the difference between a win and a loss in a game like this.

Big man Marcus Bingham Jr. is Michigan State’s leading rebounder (7.1) and second-leading scorer (10.9). Bingham is a tremendous shot blocker (21 in MSU’s first five games this season), but his slender frame leaves him vulnerable to being bullied against more physical teams. Against the always physical Baylor Bears, the 7-footer was limited to seven points and just a single rebound. The Baha Bullies need to make sure Bingham’s performance on the boards Wednesday night is similarly limited.

Tom Izzo brought five-star freshman Max Christie into the fold this season primarily to address Michigan State’s recent outside shooting woes. Christie was terrific in MSU’s road win over Butler, but is coming off a humbling week in the Bahamas where he scored just nine total points and was 4-of-21 from the field. Still, Christie is a sniper who must be accounted for at all times.

Like Louisville, Michigan State has a ton of capable players they can give solid minutes to, and any one of them is capable of scoring well above their average on any given night. Joey Hauser’s skills are well-documented, but he has been struggling tremendously on offense so far this season. Julius Marble is an undersized big man who brings an element of physicality that Bingham doesn’t. Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker was brought in to be Sparty’s new starting point guard, but he’s had his struggles adjusting to the stronger level of competition. A.J. Hoggard and well thought of freshman Jaden Akins have been solid in spelling Walker, and will both see solid minutes against Louisville.

Michigan State has the No. 2 overall adjusted defensive efficiency in the country according to Ken Pom, and their blueprint should remind Louisville a little bit of the one it just faced against Maryland. The Spartans aren’t going to turn you over much (or at least force you to turn it over much), but they want you to use clock in your halfcourt sets, take contested jump shots, or shots at the rim that will be altered by Bingham. Once they’ve accomplished that, they want to clean up the defensive glass.

The Spartans are limiting their opponents to 28.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc (55th best in the country), and 42.5 percent inside of it (22nd best in the country). They’re also blocking shots on 15.4 percent of their defensive possessions, the 22nd-best rate in Division-I.

In short, you’re facing a Michigan State team that should remind you of most Michigan State teams: They’re terrific defensively, they’re extremely physical, and they want to own you on the glass. The Baha Bullies are going to need to be the Big 10 Challenge Bullies for Louisville to come back home with a win.

Notable:

—This will be the first game back for Louisville head coach Chris Mack, who was suspended for the Cardinals’ first six games of this season. Acting head coach Mike Pegues went 5-1 in Mack’s absence.

—Louisville is 4-3 all-time in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, with all four of its wins coming at home and all three of its losses coming on the road.

—Michigan State is 8-12 all-time in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge.

—The Cardinals and Spartans have met twice before in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, with both teams winning competitive games at home.

—The Big Ten currently leads the Challenge by a count of 6-2. They need just two victories on Wednesday to lock up a series victory.

—Louisville is 61-48 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. It has played at least one game against each of the league’s 14 teams.

—The Cards are 11-7 against Big Ten teams over the last 10 years.

—This marks the first time in the history of the program that Louisville has played back-to-back games against Big Ten foes. The Cardinals locked up a Bahamas championship by defeating Maryland four days ago.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Louisville is a 4-point underdog in this game. It marks the third straight game and the third time this season that the Cardinals have not been favored. U of L has won in its prior two appearances as an underdog.

—Louisville leads the all-time series against Michigan State, 6-5, but is 0-3 in games played in East Lansing.

—Michigan State is 76-116 all-time against teams that currently make up the ACC.

—Louisville has won its first true road game in eight of the last 11 seasons. The Cards lost their first road game at Wisconsin last season.

—Under Chris Mack, Louisville has three road victories over top 25 opponents.

—The underdog has won four of the last five meetings between these two teams.

—Louisville is 23-4 all-time in games played on Dec. 1 and has won seven straight on the date.

—Louisville has a 62-67 record against top 25 teams over the last 12 years. The Cards went 1-2 against ranked teams last season.

—Under Chris Mack, Louisville is 7-14 against top 25 opponents.

—Louisville has a 47-12 record (.797) in the month of December over the last eight years.

—Louisville is 31-2 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points, but one of those losses came earlier this season against Furman.

—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 128-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Michigan State 70, Louisville 64