NCAA Tournament action will resume in the Midwest Region on Friday night, with a pair of exciting games from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In the opener, top-seeded Louisville will take-on surprise Sweet 16 participant Oregon, while in the night-cap No. 2 seed Duke plays No. 3 Michigan State.
Starting with the first game, Louisville will play the No. 12 seed Ducks, after the Ducks advanced to Indianapolis with victories over No. 5 seed Oklahoma State and No. 4 St. Louis on the opening weekend. And for the Cardinals to notch their 32nd victory of the season Friday, they will need to continue to play on the defensive end. Through two NCAA Tournament games, Louisville has forced 44 total turnovers.
After averaging 11.5 turnovers per game in Pac-12 tournament wins over Washington and Utah, Oregon’s turned the ball over an average of 17 times in their last three games (and on the season they turn the ball over on 21.5% of their possessions). They’re not going to get away with that against Louisville, making it very important that [Dominic] Artis (and Johnathan Loyd) take care of the basketball against the Louisville pressure. Russ Smith was their most tenacious perimeter defender last weekend, averaging 5.0 steals (eight vs. North Carolina A&T) to go along with his 25.0 points per game.
Meanwhile, the experts at CBS Sports are split on this game. Two have predicted Louisville to advance to the Elite Eight, while two others have picked Oregon.
In the second match-up in the Midwest, it seems like most believe Duke will have the edge over Michigan State. All four experts at CBS Sports picked the Blue Devils to win Friday night, after Duke tallied a pair of double-digit victories in the opening weekend of the tournament.
On the other side of the court, if Michigan State is to have any chance at pulling the upset, it will likely come to come with a strong defensive effort in the post. Derrick Nix has averaged 18 points and over 11 rebounds in two tournament games so far, but NBC Sports' Rob Dauster believes Nix's defense will be most important on Friday.
Part of what makes Duke’s offense so effective is that Mason Plumlee can overpower people in the post. If he gets doubled, he’s got four sharp-shooters and capable passers surrounding him that can make teams pay for leaving them open. Plumlee isn’t going to be overpowering Derrick Nix, however. If there is no double team coming, is Duke going to be able to get enough good looks offensively against Michigan State’s defense?
Tip-off of the Louisville-Oregon game is set for 7:15 p.m. ET on Friday, with Duke and Michigan State squaring off at 9:45.
The two winners from Friday will play on Sunday for the right to go to the Final Four.