Green, the Big 10 Player of the Year, is one of the most complete players in college basketball. After recording a triple double in the Spartans second round win over LIU-Brooklyn, the 6'7 Green led his team to a hard fought 65-61 win over St. Louis Sunday, finishing with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists against the Billikens, to set up a rematch of the 2009 Midwest Region finals.
"I think they have faith in him and he has faith in him, and I have faith in him. So that's a pretty good combination," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Draymond can do more than just in scoring. That's what makes him special."
"I just said I'm going to put the ball in his hands at the point and have Nix screen for him," Izzo said. "We ran some big big ball screens and that was an adjustment for us. And he hits Keith on one of them. He takes a 3 on one of them. And he takes that little short shot on one of them. So he really did a great job with decision making during that stretch."
How Louisville defends Green, who is looking to become the first Power Six Conference player since Tim Duncan to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, will play a big role in determining Thursday's winner. Pitino, 9-0 in regional semifinal games, has a strong track record in situations like these. One thing is certain - - Green will be ready for anything Pitino throws his way in Phoenix.
"I've always been a competitor," Green said. "I've always really just had that will to win."
Green, Michigan State's most valuable performer, led the Spartans in rebounding in 30 of 36 games this season. Green also led MSU in scoring 20 times and was the leader in assists 14 times. When Green has recorded at least five assists and five rebounds, the Spartans are 14-0 this season.
Sweet 16 NotebookRick Pitino has never lost a regional semifinal matchup in nine tries. At Louisville, Pitino is 3-0 in Sweet 16 games, having beaten Washington, a No. 1 seed in 2005, Tennessee (2008) and Arizona (2009).
Half of the remaining 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament come from the Big East and Big 10. Both leagues placed four teams in the Sweet 16. From the Big East, Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Cincinnati remain standing. Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin represent the Big 10.
Louisville advanced to the West Region semifinals by beating the Southern Conference champions (Davidson 69-62) and Mountain West Conference champions (New Mexico 59-56). The Cardinals also have wins this season over the Conference USA champions (Memphis), Big West (Long Beach State, Sun Belt (Western Kentucky), SEC (Vanderbilt) and MidAmerican (Ohio).
Louisville has won six straight and 14 of their last 18 games. During their current winning streak, the Cardinals beat a pair of Sweet 16 teams (Cincinnati and Marquette) in the Big East Tournament.
Michigan State is playing without starting forward Branden Dawson. Dawson who started the first 31 games this season, suffered a season ending knee injury in a 72-70 loss to Ohio State this month. Dawson averaged 8.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and made 57 percent of his shots.
The Spartans offense has been clicking during the post-season. in the Big 10 and NCAA Tournaments, MSU is averaging 78.5 points, while shooting 54 percent, including 45 percent from three-point range. The Spartans have averaged 16.5 assists against just 10.5 turnovers in the post-season.
Michigan State center tandem Adrein Payne and Derrick Nix have been a dynamic one-two punch this season, averaging a combined 15.4 points and 8 rebounds. In the post-season, those two have elevated their production, averaging 22.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, while shooting 63 percent from the floor.
Like Louisville, Michigan State is one of the nation's top defensive teams, limiting opponents to just 59.3 points and 38 percent shooting, including 29.7 from three. The Spartans rank first in the Big 10 in scoring defense, first in field goal percentage defense and second in 3-point percentage defense.
Michigan State has been a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed four times under Tom Izzo and advanced to the Final Four each time.
Louisville and Michigan State are two of the 14 schools that have won two or more NCAA titles. Louisville won the NCAA tourney in 1980 and 1986; MSU in 1979 and 2000. Both programs have reached the Final Four eight times during their storied pasts.
Louisville and Michigan State will play Thursday night at 7:47 p.m.