Game Preview by @RandyDunson – Duke Blue Devils vs. Michigan State Spartans

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#5/4 Duke Blue Devils [6-1, 0-0] vs. #UR Michigan State Spartans [4-3, 0-0]

November 29, 2016 • 9:30 PM ET • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

Media: ESPN, Local Radio

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson]

 

Team Overviews

Duke

Duke and Michigan State will square off for the sixth time in the last seven seasons on Tuesday when they meet at Cameron Indoor Stadium as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Blue Devils are 15-2 (.882) in Challenge games, the most wins and best winning percentage in the event’s history. Duke is 7-0 in Challenge home games and has won four straight in the Challenge overall. Duke’s .942 (114-7) home winning percentage this decade is the third best in the NCAA in that time. Mike Krzyzewski is 493-62 (.888) at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke has won 128 consecutive non-conference home games, a streak that dates back to 2000. The Blue Devils have won the third-most games (216) and have the fourth-best winning percentage (.818) in the nation this decade.

 

Notables:

  • Luke Kennard has been on a tear to open the season, leading Duke in scoring (17.1) and assists (3.9) while ranking second on the team in rebounds (6.7). He and Matt Jones share the team lead in minutes played at 35.0 per contest.
  • Amile Jefferson has been strong in Duke’s last four games, averaging 15.8 points and 11.5 boards. He has three double-doubles in that stretch. Jefferson leads the ACC in defensive rebounds per game with an average of 7.4 as Duke has cleaned up at a rate of 73.9 percent on the defensive glass this season.
  • Frank Jackson has opened his career with seven consecutive double-figure scoring games. He ranks third among ACC freshmen in scoring.

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Grayson Allen

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Guard –Sophomore Luke Kennard

Guard – Freshman Frank Jackson

Forward – Grad Student Amile Jefferson

Michigan State

Michigan State travels to Duke for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This is the Spartans’ third trip to Durham in challenge history, with both previous games being decided by seven points or less. The game will be the sixth road game in the first eight contests for MSU, as the Spartans have already played games in Hawaii, New York, Michigan, and the Bahamas.

Tuesday’s game marks the final game in what is arguably the toughest opening month in college basketball history, certainly Spartan history. Having already played games against No. 2 Kentucky, No. 10 Arizona and No. 20 Baylor (rankings at date of game), Duke marks the fourth ranked opponent MSU will play in November alone. The Spartans have never faced three Top 10 opponents in November, and have never played four Top 20 non-conference opponents in a single month during the regular season. Not only will the Spartans play a diabolical slate of opponents, they will face a brutal travel schedule to open the season. Beginning with a flight to Hawaii on November 8 and ending with the return flight from Duke on November 29, the Spartans will travel more than 13,600 miles in 22 days, including additional trips to New York City and the Bahamas.

Michigan State is 7-9 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and had its 2001 game against Virginia in Richmond cancelled due to unplayable wet floor conditions. After dropping the first 10 challenges, the Big Ten has captured five of the last seven, with the conferences splitting the 2012 and 2013 Challenges, 6-6. Last year, the Big Ten captured the Commissioner’s Cup, winning 8-6.

Although it is early in the season, Miles Bridges is on pace to have one of the most productive freshman seasons in Michigan State history. Bridges’ scoring average of 17.4 points per game is the best ever for a Spartan freshman, slightly better than Earvin Johnson’s 17.0 PPG in 1977-78. Only Greg Kelser (9.6 RPG, 1975-76) posted a better rebounding average than Bridges’ current 8.7 average.

Notables:

  • Michigan State’s freshman class of Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Nick Ward, and Cassius Winston was widely regarded as one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.
  • Bridges and Langford were McDonald’s All-Americans, Winston joined Bridges as Jordan Brand All-Americans, and all four players were ranked in the Top 40 in the nation. They are expected to have an immediate impact on the Spartans in 2016-17.
  • In fact, they have the potential to go down as the most productive freshman class under Tom Izzo. The 2001-02 Spartan freshmen of Alan Anderson, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Aaron Alexander combined to average 77.4 minutes and 26.5 points, both of which rank first in the Izzo era. The 2002-03 freshmen (Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, and Erazem Lorbek) averaged a combined 20.9 points, while 2012-13 freshmen (Matt Costello, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, and Trevor Bohnhoff) averaged 19.7 points. Through seven games, the freshman quartet is averaging a combined 37.1 points, 17.7 rebounds, and 79.7 minutes.

Probable Starters

Guard – Junior Tum Tum Nairn Jr

Guard – Freshman Joshua Langford

Guard – RS Senior Eron Harris

Guard/Forward – Freshman Miles Bridges

Forward – RS Sophomore Kenny Goins

Last Time Out

Duke

Grayson Allen showed what he is capable of when healthy — and then went down with the latest in a run of injuries for No. 6 Duke.

Allen scored all 21 of his points in the first half, and then injured a toe late in Duke’s 93-58 rout of Michigan State on Saturday.

Allen, who has been playing through a right foot injury suffered in last week’s loss to No. 5 Kansas, appeared to tweak that foot or ankle when he went down while going for a rebound with about 12 minutes to play and Duke leading by 35. He stayed on the bench for the rest of the game.

Allen was not available for comment after the game because he was receiving treatment, team spokesman Cory Walton said.

“He just landed funny, and when that happens, it hurts,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It really hurts. He looked fresher in that first half than he has the entire season, and hopefully we’ll get there by Tuesday night” when No. 24 Michigan State visits.

Luke Kennard added 18 points, Amile Jefferson, and Frank Jackson each finished with 15 for the Blue Devils (6-1), who have won four straight but once again must deal with an injury to a key player. Duke also has been without three injured freshman big men due to injuries and Krzyzewski says those three will not play against Michigan State either.

Kelvin Robinson scored 12 points for the Mountaineers (2-3), who average 89 points but for the first time were held to fewer than 70.

Allen started shooting the ball better in his last game, hitting three 3s in a rout of William & Mary on Wednesday night, and he picked up right where he left off.

He led the way during an opening half in which Duke scored a season-best 55 points and used a 24-12 burst to push the lead into the 20s. Allen keyed the run with two of his four 3s, and Jackson capped it with a layup that made it 53-31.

Matt Jones added 10 points for Duke.

Notables:

  • For the second straight game, injured freshman forwards Harry Giles and Marques Bolden warmed up but did not play.
  • In their continued absence, Chase Jeter was once again the first post player off the bench, but freshman Javin DeLaurier was impressive and sophomore Antonio Vrankovic scored eight points in 19 minutes. Both could make a push for Jeter’s minutes going forward.

Michigan State

In its last game, Michigan State spent the first 30 minutes playing with energy and building a huge lead, then the last 10 nearly giving it all away.

Still, the 24th-ranked Spartans came away from the Battle 4 Atlantis with a win – and the end of a brutally tough opening month of the schedule in sight.

Miles Bridges scored 21 points to help Michigan State hold off Wichita State 77-72 on Friday in the Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game.

Eron Harris added 13 points for the Spartans (4-3), who bounced back from Thursday’s loss to No. 20 Baylor in a game that left coach Tom Izzo saying his injury-hit team looked ”awfully tired” and maybe a bit overwhelmed by the early schedule.

”There’s no question that this team has been through a lot,” Izzo said. ”But that’s what I challenged them with. I don’t challenge them with effort, heart, I don’t challenge them very often with character issues. But I did challenge their character a little bit.”

Michigan State led by 18 midway through the half and held a 15-point lead with 8:05 left, only to see the Shockers (5-2) turn to full court pressure to get back in it. Wichita State ran off a 14-0 run to get to 66-65 on Daishon Smith’s layup over Bridges with 4:13 left.

But the Shockers couldn’t quite push ahead. Bridges and fellow freshman Cassius Winston hit key 3-pointers. And when the Shockers had one more chance to tie it, Smith missed a long straightaway 3.

Bridges grabbed the rebound and hit two clinching free throws with 4.7 seconds left.

Darral Willis scored 16 points to lead Wichita State, which shot 36 percent.

Notables:

  • Michigan State held Wichita State to 35.5% (22-62) shooting from the floor and 22.7% (5-22) from three. MSU has now held five of seven opponents under 40 percent shooting and all seven under 50 percent shooting from the field.
  • Tum Tum Nairn dished out a career-high 12 assists to lead the Spartans. His previous high was eight assists vs. Boston College (11/26/15). The junior set or tied a career high in a different stat in each game this week at the Battle 4 Atlantis (Points – 13, vs. St. John’s, Rebounds – 6, vs. Baylor, Assists – 12, vs. Wichita State).
  • MSU recorded 20 assists on 26 made baskets and the Spartans have assisted on 72 percent of their baskets this season.
  • Eron Harris tallied 13 points was one of four Spartans to score in double figures. Michigan State is 4-0 when the redshirt senior scores in double figures and 0-3 when he scores fewer than 10.
  • Miles Bridges led all scorers with 21 points. It was the freshman’s fourth 20-plus point performance in seven games this season.

Head-to-Head

Duke leads the all-time series against Michigan State, 10-2, including a 2-0 advantage on a neutral court. Six of the last seven meetings in the series, and eight of the last 10, have all been decided by 10 points or less. The two ACC/Big Ten Challenge games at Cameron Indoor Stadium have been decided by seven points or less. Duke is 3-0 against MSU in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Spartans’ last win in the series was a 78-68 victory in the Sweet 16 of the 2005 NCAA Tournament in Dallas.

In their last meeting, No. 1 seed Duke defeated No. 7 seed Michigan State, 81-61, on April 4, 2015, in the Final Four in Indianapolis. MSU jumped out to a 14-6 lead, but Duke took the lead midway through the first half. A 27-8 Blue Devil run had DU’s lead at 33-22 with 2:37 left in the opening half, as Duke controlled the rest of the contest. Denzel Valentine led all players in both scoring (22 points) and rebounding (11 rebounds). Justise Winslow led Duke with 19 points, while Jahlil Okafor scored 18 and Quinn Cook had 17.

Statistics

In terms of overall statistics, Duke overwhelms MSU in most all categories. Some stats of note include scoring margin, rebound margin, FT%, & most particularly TO/GM (Margin) where Duke far excels as MSU turns the ball over at a very high rate.

Duke 2015-16 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Michigan State
22.0 PPG (Scoring Margin) 3.7
63.3 Opponents PPG 67.3
55.1 Effective FG% 55.3
48.1 FG% 46.9
39.8 Opponent FG% 38.2
36.2 3PT FG% 38.7
25.2 Opponent 3PT FG% 33.6
7.6 RPG (Rebound Margin) 4.0
28.71 Opponent RPG 29.29
74.6 FT% 60.2
14.0 APG 18.7
6.1 SPG (%) 2.7
3.0 Turnovers Per Game (Margin) -5.9
14.9 Opponent TOPG 9.6
4.9 BPG 4.7
18.3 Fouls Per Game 10..1

Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here, https://www.dukeblogger.com/four-factors-winning/.]

Duke

eFG& TO% OR% FTRate
55.1 16.3 33.9 44.3

MSU

eFG& TO% OR% FTRate
55.3 22.2 28.7 29.1

When it comes to effective field goal percentage (eFG%), the teams are evenly matched. However, Duke far exceeds the Spartans in all categories including a large lead in offensive rebounding.

Summary

The Michigan State Spartans look for a statement victory to build on their OK 4-3 start to the season. The Michigan State Spartans are averaging 71 points on 46.9 percent shooting and allowing 67.3 points on 38.4 percent shooting. Miles Bridges is averaging 17.4 points and 2.3 assists while Eron Harris is averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds. Nick Ward is the third double-digit scorer and Matt McQuaid is grabbing two rebounds. The Michigan State Spartans are shooting 38.7 percent from beyond the arc and 60.2 percent from the free throw line. The Michigan State Spartans are allowing 33.6 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 35.3 rebounds per game. The Michigan State Spartans have won four of their last five road games.

The Duke Blue Devils look to keep the ball rolling in hopes of building on their 6-1 start to the CBB season. The Duke Blue Devils are averaging 85.6 points on 48.1 percent shooting and allowing 63.6 points on 39.8 percent shooting. Luke Kennard is averaging 17.1 points and 3.9 assists while Grayson Allen is averaging 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds. Frank Jackson is the third double-digit scorer and Amile Jefferson is grabbing 9.4 rebounds. The Duke Blue Devils are shooting 36.2 percent from beyond the arc and 74.6 percent from the free throw line. The Duke Blue Devils are allowing 25.2 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 37.4 rebounds per game. The Duke Blue Devils have won 10 of their last 13 home games.

Notables:

  • INJURY REPORT
    • Duke’s three injured freshmen, Harry Giles, Marques Bolden, and Jayson Tatum, are getting closer to playing per Duke staff. Their injuries all vary in terms of body location and severity.
    • They have still yet to check into a game, all are now in uniform, and Giles and Bolden are now taking part in warm-ups.
    • Those three were a big reason why the Blue Devils were picked No. 1 in the preseason.
    • To reiterate, “In the transition from serious injury, it’s not just physical, it’s mental, psychological”, Krzyzewski said. “I just think, to put on your uniform, to do warm-ups as much as you can, to be more a part of a team is something, we want to transition to that. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just do not know how long the tunnel is. Days like today help.”
    • At the time of writing this preview, status has remained unchanged.

Endgame

The key for Duke in this game is to maximize the advantage they have in the post. Amile Jefferson, Chase Jeter and possibly Antonio Vrankovic could have big games for Duke against an ailing Michigan State front court. Michigan State also has been shown to be a poor free throw shooting team this may come as a useful tool for Duke should the game become close in the waning minutes. As a team Michigan State shoots around 60%.

This is a very talented Michigan State team, but this will be the first time these young Spartans play a true road game. Oh, and Cameron Indoor is arguably the toughest place to play in college basketball. Not to mention the Spartans lack overall depth and have had some close calls already with a near loss to Florida Gulf Coast and a blowout loss to Baylor after leading by double digits at one point. Duke’s balance, scoring depth, and help from the home crowd should result in a Blue Devils double-digit victory, 88-77.