LSU will be stepping on the hardwood with March Madness royalty this Friday night when they go head to head with the Big Ten Champion Michigan State. The Spartans have now competed in twenty-two straight NCAA Tournaments and have a hall of fame coach in Tom Izzo.
Izzo will be coaching opposite of Tony Benford, the interim coach for LSU. Benford is 3-1 since he took over the team and knows his work is cut out for him when he will face Izzo and the Spartans.
"First of all, we're excited to obviously be in the Sweet 16. Our guys have worked hard all year to put ourselves in this position. We're excited and we're looking forward to playing against a great Michigan State team led by a hall of fame coach in Coach Izzo looking. And we're looking forward to the challenge."
Izzo has coached 674 more games than Benford and his team is stacked with players who have played in the tournament before. Experience looks to be the X factor when comparing these two teams. The team is led by Cassius Winston (Jr.) and Matt McQuaid (Sr.) who have both played in multiple tournaments. Winston was named Big Ten Player of the Year, but he will be sharing the court with another highly-revered college point guard: Tremont Waters.
Waters may be the most talented point guard Michigan State will have to face all season. He shoots 42.9% from the floor and can punish a soft defense by taking them to the rack all game. However, he will have to be creative with his scoring as Michigan State ranks third in the country in opposing team's field goal percentage.
When asked about the marquee match-up between he and Winston Waters said, "Obviously a great all-around player offensively and defensively, but watching film I just see that he's really good in transition. He controls the offense. He runs the team, and everything pretty much runs through him. He's a great point guard. He controls the offense and everything. But my job is to go out and run my team and just pretty much do what I have to do to help us win. That's really it."
LSU was lively and energetic before their team practice on Thursday, but when the horn sounded for them to begin they got down to business. The word on the front of their warm-up shirt reads "Family" and that is exactly what this team is. Though the adversity of losing their teammate Wayde Sims to a fatal shooting and losing their Head Coach Will Wade to a suspension this team has banded together in a way that few teams in college basketball have. They have the "all for one" mentality that has no doubt propelled them to this point in the tournament.