When Louisville & Michigan State Tip-Off in East Lansing Wednesday Night it will be the 4th meeting between Rick Pitino & Tom Izzo at the two schools. There have been some big stages thus far between the Hall of Famer (Pitino) and the future Hall of Famer (Izzo) for the Cardinals & Spartans. Two Elite 8s, One Sweet 16. For Izzo, he’s made two different Final Fours through Pitino & his Cardinals. For Pitino, his team was on its way to the Final Four when it dispatched Michigan State and Izzo in the Sweet 16.
The 2009 meeting meeting with the NCAA was in the Midwest Regional Final at Lucas Oil Stadium. Terrence Williams & Earl Clark’s #1 overall seeded & Big East Regular Season & Tournament Champions were eliminated in pummeling fashion.
In 2012 the Cards turned the table and ended the season of #1 Seed Michigan State (as a #4 seed) in the West Regional Semifinal out West in Phoenix en route to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, Gorgui Dieng and others had trouble scoring but figured out a way to take down Draymond Green and the Spartans.
And finally, last year. The 2015 East Regional Final. Overtime. Mangok’s Free Throws, Wayne Blackshear’s block called a foul. A well played game between two teams that both probably didn’t deserve to go to the Final Four but Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Branden Dawson stopped the Cards run with Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear, and Montrezl Harrell.
3 very memorable games and tonight Louisville & Michigan State will play with far less on the line. Perhaps the Cardinals are seeking legitimacy in East Lansing and some measure of revenge from last year’s exit in the NCAA Tournament. But even if the Cards to win at Michigan State, the legitimacy will be tested again later in the schedule during ACC play and the revenge won’t quite be enough.
Win or lose the Cards will learn where this new team is in the early stages of the 2015-16 season. Round 4 of Pitino vs. Izzo may not have nearly as much at stake as Rounds 1-3, but it may give us enough insight to see how things may go this March.