US Airways Arena
I wouldnâ€™t call the Louisville Cardinals and their Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino intimidated.Â What I would call them is acutely aware of Big Ten Player of the Year and potential college basketball player of the year Draymond Green.Â They know all about him and he is square in the middle of their thinking process on how to beat Michigan State on Thursday.
Rick Pitino contemplated the Spartans senior captain earlier today when he said, â€œI'm not sure what his position is. If they need somebody to run a pick-and-roll, if they need a post up, post up. If they need a guy to take a bounce, he does that. He's about the most complete player in college basketball in terms of all phases of the game.â€
Senior Cardinal point guard Chris Smith had high praise for the Spartans Day Day Green.Â He said, â€œI believe he's a great player from watching the film. He can do everything within the court, really. He can dribble the ball, shoot the ball, rebound the ball, pass the ball. He's just a great player.Â But as a team, we'll have to match their physicality and try to throw the first blow, really.â€
The country is talking about the Cardinals press and it is a good one.Â One key factor them seem to ignore is that Green can handle the ball with ease.Â He is comfortable with the rock.Â If they try to force the ball into his hands as some expect, I think that is a dumb decision and will almost certainly send the Spartans on to the elite eight.
Michigan State has a glut of one thing and that is ball handlers.Â In a game like this that is critical for the Spartans to survive and advance.
Travis Trice is a true point guard and after getting back from injury is playing better every game.Â He still needs his shot to continually improve and I expect that more with a summer of work.Â For this game he is going to play a key role in breaking the Cardinals press.
Brandon Wood the senior transfer is not only a great ball handler, but has the ability to score points quick.Â He is yet another arrow in the Izzo quiver that will help the Spartans on Thursday.Â The good news for Wood is that he is also playing defense better and is NOT a liability when the Spartans are playing without the ball.
Brandan Kearney showed the world before he arrived on campus as Michigan State what he could do among elite competition as he garnered one of the rare 12 spots on team USA.Â He is a superb ball handler and has been playing well.Â If he will learn to take his shot he will be an even better threat, and is getting better with every game with his commitment to defense.
Finally Keith Appling.Â He has done a very good job after moving to the point to start the year from his natural number two spot.Â He will anchor the Spartans attack, but as I have pointed out the Spartans have a vast arsenal of ball handler to help him out.
Cleary the Cardinals are in a Draymond Green state of mind.Â That is just fine with the Spartans.Â They know what this time of year is about.Â They have the horses to handle the Cardinals if they take Green out of the game and they can handle them.
They key to the game will be MSU simply being able to win the mind game.Â They are the better team, and the Cardinals need to force them to make mental mistakes.Â If MSU can avoid costly errors in judgment, no matter what frame of mind the Cardinals are in wonâ€™t matter.
They are in a Green mood, but the US Airways Arena crowd, if the Spartans avoid mental errors, could be chanting in a Go Green Go White frame of mind about 9:50 PM EST on Thursday.