The last time the Michigan Wolverines met the Louisville Cardinals on a basketball court, it was for the 2013 national championship. Although the stakes won’t be as high when the two teams meet on Sunday, it is for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Louisville defeated Jacksonville State 78-63 on Friday behind Mangok Mathiang’s 18 points while Deng Adel added 16. Michigan had a much closer first round game against Oklahoma State, edging the Cowboys 92-9. Derrick Walton Jr. paced the high-scoring affair with 26 points and 11 assists.
Midwest Region: No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (25-11) vs. No. 2 Louisville Cardinals (25-8)
Time: 12:10 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Line: Louisville -2.5
Keys for Michigan
Michigan has one of the best point guards in the nation in Walton and will need another big game from him if the Wolverines are going to pull off the upset. They also need solid contributions from Zak Irvin, D.J. Wilson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. If Michigan can continue to be deadly from behind the three-point line (38.7 percent this season, season-high 16 made treys vs. Oklahoma State), that could give the Louisville defense problems.
Keys for Louisville
The strength of the Cardinals is their play on the defensive end, holding opponents to 65.8 points per game. Louisville also is limiting teams to 39.9 percent shooting from the field, which is good for 15th in the nation. Opponents fare even worse from three-point range, making just 31.6 percent of their attempts. Michigan comes into this game on a hot shooting streak after winning the Big Ten Tournament and putting up 92 in the first round victory against Oklahoma State, so it will be interesting to see if the Cardinals can cool off the Wolverines.
Michigan-Louisville will be a tale of a great offensive team facing a great defensive team. More often than not, a great defense usually neutralizes an attack that can score. The Wolverines have been on an incredible run since the Big Ten Tournament, but they will have their hands full trying to score against the Cardinals. Expect Louisville to march on to the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Louisville 75, Michigan 69
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.