Duke vs. Michigan State: Key Points Analysis

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Duke vs. Michigan State: Key Points Analysis

By Randy Dunson

Looking back at my preview for this game, I chose five key points to consider. I will briefly address each, entirely from my own personal perspective as I have read very little (postgame articles, etc.) about this game.

First though, I would like to revisit the last sentence in the Endgame section. It read “This could be a close game and I think that Michigan State will come out strong, possibly trading the lead until late in the first half. But, the Blue Devils will eventually overpower Izzo’s squad based on sheer talent.” This statement was pretty close to reality with the obvious point that Michigan State never led and only tied the game once, 2-2 at the 19:29 mark in the 1st half, during 40 minutes of play.

Okay, let us briefly break down each key:

  • Get off to a fast start – run hard on both ends of the court
    • This key was somewhat vague but its premise did come to fruition in that they did get off to a fairly fast start though just scoring 14 points to the Spartan’s 9 at the first media timeout (FMT, 14:51)
    • In comparison, it was 12-4 against Presbyterian (FMT, 15:46) and also 12-4 against Fairfield (FMT, 15:12)
  • Rebounding – Prove to the nation that this team can rebound well against an established team
    • Duke clearly dropped the ball regarding this key
    • They were outrebounded 35-25 (Michigan State 13, 22 & Duke 5, 20)
    • The OR margin was telling at 13-5
    • Duke was led by Winslow (6), Okafor (5), & Jefferson (4)
  • EstablishOkafor in post – he must dominate down low, particularly on the defensive end
    • Half and half here where he truly dominated on the offensive end early; he then leveled off prior to picking up his 4th foul at the 8:59 mark in the 2nd half
    • Although it is still early, I have not been impressed by his defense in the post
    • He had very little competition in the exhibition games and the first two games of the season
    • Against the Spartans, Branden Dawson (G/F, 6-6, 225) scored 19 and had 9 boards (4, 5); even though Matt Costello (F, 6-9, 245) only scored 6 points, he picked up 4 rebounds (2, 2)
  • Push the tempo – push the ball on both offensive and defensive ends of the court
    • Not much to say here as they had no problem with tempo in that they played their game and did not allow Michigan State to change it
  • Hit open three’s – Michigan State will bedouble- and triple-teamingOkafor, which should help the in-and-out game
    • I heard quite a bit of grumbling and whining from Duke fans prior to this game about Duke shooting so many 3-pointers
    • Lest we not forget that Coach K has pretty much green lighted 3-pointers if they are clean shots; a testament to this is Semi Ojeleye
    • Against the Spartans, they only took 14 shots from the 3-point line but hit 7 for 50%
    • So, the 3-pointer was not as pivotal in this game until the one by Tyus Jones at the 4:15 mark in the 2nd half, which opened up a 10-point lead

So in conclusion, let us revisit another statement from the preview’s Endgame section and meld this with my thoughts around the Key Points. “Although it is very early, and I do mean very early, Duke, who boasted the No. 1 overall recruiting class in 2014, does look exactly like a top-five team is supposed to look, athletic, explosive, and most importantly, efficient.” It is definitely still early, but can we still stand by what was said about this team looking exactly like a top-five team? One could easily split hairs here based on their overall play against Michigan State. The Spartans came into the game with adversity hanging over their heads due to the loss of some key players. However, in the end, depth did Michigan State in. The ninth player in Michigan State’s rotation, who had to go to during first-half foul trouble, was former walk-on Colby Wollenman. The ninth player in Duke’s rotation is a former McDonald’s All-American. “We were down to Colby as a walk-on and we were playing him and that’s just not healthy,” Coach Tom Izzo said. Therefore, in my opinion, this team has a lot of room for growth. They are not a solid top-five team at this point in time. That said, my opinion could easily change if they have very solid outings in back-to-back games against Temple tomorrow night followed by UNLV or Stanford on Saturday.