#2 Louisville Cardinals V.s. #8 Michigan Wolverines
12:10 ET, CBS
Louisville Cardinals (25-8) (12-6) – ACC
Player to Watch: Mangok Mathiang (7.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG)
Mathiang, the senior center for the Louisville Cardinals, had a fantastic game in the first round versus Jacksonville State with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Although Mathiang only had five rebounds in the game, he made his presence felt by attacking the glass on the offensive end and helping Louisville outscore Jacksonville State in the paint. Against Michigan, expect Mathiang to be matched up with D.J. Wilson, which should be an interesting battle to watch.
X-Factor: Defend the 3-point Line
Rick Pitino’s Cards are always known for their lockdown interior and transition defense. But, there is a soft spot in their defense this season. Louisville has had trouble defending the 3-point line as of late. In their past 7 games, including their game against Jacksonville State, Louisville has allowed 9.4 made 3-pointers per game to their opponent. This number is significantly high and could be troublesome for the Cards as they prepare for a Michigan team who just made 16 3-pointers in their first round matchup.
Michigan Wolverines (25-11) (10-8)
Player to Watch: Derrick Walton Jr. (15.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 42.3 3P%)
Derrick Walton Jr, the senior leader for the Wolverines, has been on a mission and has been dominate this season for Michigan. The Wolverines have had a crazy few weeks. From a scary plane crash to winning the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan has been given a second life. With Walton Jr. playing some of the best basketball in the country, they will be a very tough team to beat. When Derrick Walton Jr. gets going, you almost have to double team him to force someone else to take shots. Michigan and Walton Jr. will definitely look to play fast against Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals and their tough defense.
X-Factor: D.J. Wilson Holding His Own Against the Louisville Bigs
Louisville has three players who are 6’10 or taller that play big minutes. Michigan has one. D.J. Wilson, the 6’10” forward for the Wolverines will have to be the x-factor for Michigan if they want to have a chance against Louisville. Wilson has scored in double figures in 4 of his last 5 games, and could be the key piece to break Louisville’s zone defense. Whether it is a quick pass to the outside for a three, or a an offensive rebound, D.J. Wilson will have to take pressure off of Derrick Walton Jr. Wilson has the height to compete with the bigs from Louisville and could help the Wolverines move onto the Sweet 16.
Match-up to Watch: Donovan Mitchell v.s. Derrick Walton Jr.
Donovan Mitchell did not have his best game offensive game of the season against Jacksonville State, scoring only 9 points, but he did have a fantastic defensive game. Mitchell grabbed 10 rebounds and added 3 steals to his resume. Regardless of whether or not Louisville is in a zone or man, Mitchell will still have to guard Michigan’s star player, Derrick Walton Jr. Mitchell will have to keep Walton Jr. in front of him and not foul him on the drive. Donovan Mitchell has a tendency to foul player who beat him driving to the paint, so if Walton Jr. can exploit this weakness, Mitchell could find himself in foul trouble early on in the game. It would be very surprising to see another low scoring game from Donovan Mitchell, so Derrick Walton Jr. will have to play very aggressive on the defensive end to force Mitchell to take tough shots. This will be a very intriguing match-up to watch throughout the entire game.
Key Stat: Michigan’s 3-pt Shooting Percentage versus Louisville’s Zone
As a team, Michigan shoots 38.6% from long range. In a zone, this could be problematic for a Louisville team who has been known for giving up a lot of threes. If Rick Pitino does not change his zone defense to protect the three point line better, then Michigan could catch fire and run away with a win.
Prediction: Louisville Cardinals 76, Michigan Wolverines 74
This game could go either way and will depend on the three-point line. Michigan’s ability to shoot threes could send them to the Sweet 16, while Louisville’s adjustments on defense could send them to the Sweet 16. This game will be a fantastic way to kick off Day 2 of the Round of 32 and will come down to the last few possessions!
The Ville ‘ 20
(Photo from ESPN.com)