It’s crazy how often Duke and Michigan State play. We expect it in the Champions Classic on a regular basis obviously. But why so often in the NCAAs? Don’t they think it would be a good idea to mix things up? You know, like the Champions Classic? You know, you might like omelettes too. Just not for breakfast every day.
It’s not that we mind playing the Spartans. It’s an honorable program, and certainly well coached. Tom Izzo has been a tremendous presence in college basketball. It’s hard to believe he’s been there since 1995.
Michigan State advanced after a tough win over Davidson. And the star was a familiar name: 6-9 Joey Hauser, who, along with his brother Sam, started off at Marquette playing for Steve Wojciechowski. Sam ended up at Virginia.
Hauser lit up Davidson with 27 points, hitting 4-6 on threes and 9-12 overall. He also had eight boards.
The Spartans also started 7-0 Marcus Bingham, a senior, Gabe Brown, a 6-8 senior, Max Christie, a 6-6 freshman, and AJ Hoggard, a 6-4 sophomore.
A lot of people are going to assume Duke has a great chance here and as we often say, we don’t bet against Duke.
However, can we remind you of three words here. Or really one word repeated three times.
Senior. Senior. Senior. And reserve Malik Hall is a junior. Julius Marble is a 6-9 junior. Tyson Walker is a 6-0 junior. Pierre Brooks is a 6-6 freshman. Jaden Akins is a 6-4 freshman.
Michigan State has had an up and down season, finishing 5-8 down the stretch in the Big Ten.
However, in the Big Ten tournament, the Spartans survived a Maryland comeback, beat #12 Wisconsin and lost to #9 Purdue 75-70. And Purdue presents some unique problems. So there’s a lot to be said for that.
And as we would have expected, while Davidson is a tough, smart team, Michigan State still came up with the win, tight though it was.
In that game, aside from Hauser’s brilliant outing, look what happened down the stretch. With 6:07, Hauser tied the game up 56-56 on a three. Gabe Brown hit another three with 5:26 left to make it 59-56. Hoggard hit a jumper then Marble hit a layup and a foul shot with 3:01 left to make it 64-59. The assist on that?
Then Marble blocked a shot to keep the lead at five with 2:45 left. Hauser hit a pair of free throws, then Brown split. Then Hauser got two more and Hoggard one with :26 left. Hauser scored on another to make it 72-67 with :12 left. Walker hit a pair with :04 left to put Sparty up 74-70 before Hyunjung Lee nailed a three as time ran out.
Know what they didn’t do much of?
Hall did draw a foul with :48 left and had a turnover with :38 left but other than missed shots, those were really the only problems Michigan State had down the stretch.
Or at least the only obvious mistakes. We’re sure Izzo had quibbles about defense. But the fact is, his team was in a close game with an underdog and handled everything about the end with aplomb.
So what does Duke do with this team?
Well first, try to stay out of foul trouble. Given the typical collection of power players, probably easier said than done but it’s critical.
Secondly, control Hauser. If they could have surpassed him a little, Davidson might have won.
Third, play with confidence or, as Coach K calls it, verve. Duke will need that. If they play tentatively in winning time - especially if an experienced Michigan State team is in striking distance or ahead - Duke’s in big trouble.
The Spartans are a good team and of course very well coached, but they have flaws. They can be turnover prone. Last time they played, Cassius Winston was a savant of a point guard. This time AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker are averaging 4.9 and 4.2 apg. Not to disrespect either of them, but Winston was, in basketball terms, pretty much a genius. He amazed and terrified simultaneously. We’re glad he’s not playing.
You guys mostly know what to expect from Duke by now, so we’ll just say a few things. First, the focus has been on defense and communication. It seemed to pay off against Cal State Fullerton. And second, Wendell Moore, who injured his hip somewhat on Friday, says he feels better and will definitely play Sunday. That’s good, because he may end up spending time on Hauser.
By the way, Draft Kings has Duke at -6.5.