Put Up Your Dukes
Spartans have slight edge going into matchup of starting lineups in Friday's Sweet 16 game against Duke
State News basketball reporters Dillon Davis and Josh Mansour analyze MSU’s chances versus Duke, and MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo looks ahead to the team’s Sweet 16 matchup versus Duke.Dillon Davis / The State News
Never before have as many upset-minded teams advanced this far in the NCAA Tournament, but through all the chaos, two programs remain: Tom Izzo’s Spartans and Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils.
They are two of the winningest coaches in tournament history and lead the only programs with 11 or more Sweet 16 appearances in the past 16 seasons.
Both teams featuring two of the top starting five’s in the country, with all 10 players averaging nine points or more per game.
Duke guard Quinn Cook vs. MSU guard Keith Appling
Cook provides a variety of problems for the Spartans’ defense as one of the Blue Devils’ best shooters and top playmakers. Connecting on 40 percent of his threes and shooting 86.6 percent from the free throw line, while dishing out 5.4 assists per game, Cook is a threat to make plays for himself and others. Most importantly, Appling isn’t at 100 percent, battling through knee tendinitis and a reaggravated shoulder injury that could limit his effectiveness.
Duke guard Seth Curry vs. MSU guard Gary Harris
Curry leads the Blue Devils in scoring and is a threat to knock down a shot from anywhere on the court, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc this season. Harris is a similar player for the Spartans, but is better defensively than Curry and will be motivated by playing just outside his hometown of Fishers, Ind.
Duke forward Ryan Kelly vs. MSU center Adreian Payne
Duke is a different team with Kelly on the floor — 20-1 when he plays, 9-4 when he doesn’t — and the biggest reason is his ability to take big defenders away from the basket with his outside shot. Payne made a significant impact with his shot blocking against Memphis, and although Kelly might not allow him to repeat that performance, Payne has been guarding perimeter players for much of the past two months and should have a significant edge offensively against Kelly down low.
Duke forward Mason Plumlee vs. MSU center Derrick Nix
Nix has been a man on a mission since postseason play got underway, using his overpowering strength to average 18 points and 11.5 rebounds in the Spartans’ first two NCAA Tournament games. Plumlee is a skilled, finesse forward, who has struggled against physical post players such as Nix, who is 35 pounds heavier.
Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon vs. MSU guard/forward Branden Dawson
This should be a tough matchup for Dawson, trying to stay in front of the much smaller and quicker Sulaimon, who also is able to shoot the ball from distance. Dawson could look to capitalize on his size advantage against Sulaimon — Dawson is two inches taller and 45 pounds heavier — but the Gary, Ind., native hasn’t spent a ton of time in the post this season.