RTC Live Recap: #6 Duke 74, Michigan State 69

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2011

We aren’t going to go into some deep analysis of Mike Krzyzewski picking up win #903 of his career because we already did it and there are some pretty cool graphics about it online. Instead, we are going to focus on the actual game, which many people decided to gloss over last night.

Krzyzewski Had a Great Night, But His Team Still Needs Some Work

For Duke:

  1. They aren’t very good right now. This game was not as close as the final score indicates, but the lead that Duke had at one point — 20 points with 9:22 left — also does not indicate how well they played. For most of the game the Blue Devils looked lost against a Michigan State team that only returned two players (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) who played more than 20 minutes per game last season. The Blue Devils were bailed out by some phenomenal shooting from Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly, who combined for 40 points on just 18 field goal attempts, and some sloppy play by the Spartans, who had 21 turnovers.
  2. Austin Rivers is not ready for prime time. Every year we hear about some talented perimeter player who is a sure thing and will dominate college basketball from day one. To be fair to Rivers, he never had the expectations that Harrison Barnes had last year, but many people figured that the son of a former NBA star and “current” NBA head coach would be able to adjust to the college game and the pressures that come with it. We saw the first signs of weakness in his game during Duke’s trip to Dubai and China, but figured that he just needed to get used to his new teammates. We will not say he is a bust because as Barnes proved last season some players just take a little while to get going, but the line for Rivers last night — five points on 1-7 shooting, one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, four fouls, and a seat on the bench late in the game — are not comforting. Rivers will come around eventually, but for right now we don’t see him playing a major role in the rotation late in games.
  3. Duke has some big bodies on the inside. For all of their faults (and there are many) the Plumlees are big. They may drive some of their fans crazy, but they battle on the inside and as tonight showed they can even get chippy as they got physical with one of the more rough teams they will see all season. Ryan Kelly can also be a factor down low, but his real utility is battling a big man under the basket on the defensive end then taking him out to the perimeter on the offensive end. The reality is that the Plumlees need to play better if Duke is going to do Duke things like challenge for a Final Four appearance. At this point every Duke fan has to admit Miles is essentially a big body who will play physical, get rebounds and frequently get confused for his two younger brothers. Mason, on the other hand, has to do much more offensively. We are not expecting him to put up 25 points and 12 rebounds like he did against Marquette last season, but he should be a focal point of the Duke offense and should be able to create good looks for the perimeter players when he kicks the ball out.
For Michigan State:
  1. This will be your typical Spartan team. They are not going to be pretty this year, but they rarely are. This team should not be a potential Final Four team –they are simply too young and inexperienced — but they should easily make the NCAA Tournament. Like always, they will take their lumps early in the season. As Tom Izzo noted in the postgame press conference, they are still looking for their first win. As they get into Big Ten play, they should start to round into form and they appear to already have an identity. They have a solid core of players who all do certain things well, but very few do  many things well. That will come as the season progresses. So if you are a Spartan fan and panicking after an 0-2 start, we will just say not to worry and that everything will be ok.
  2. Draymond Green was awful tonight. We already said the Plumlees need some work, but they may have actually outplayed Green last night. Unlike Duke who is still searching for a star, Michigan State already has one and he was awful last night. Green showed flashes of brilliance last night, but they were mixed in with too many bad shots and bad decisions. We can live with that from a freshman, but we cannot accept that from a senior. Green also did not have a good shooting night against North Carolina, but he contributed that night with a career-high 18 rebounds against one of the best front lines in the country. Last night against a solid but less talented frontline he only managed seven rebounds. As we already noted, this Spartan team has the pieces to be very good, but once March rolls around they will only go as far as Green takes them.
  3. Izzo needs to figure out the point guard situation. We had been hearing good things out of East Lansing all summer about Travis Trice and how he might make an even bigger impact than Branden Dawson on the team. That might be overstating things a bit because Dawson is a stud, but Trice changes the entire dynamic of the team while he is on the floor. Starting point guard Keith Appling put up excellent numbers, but a lot of that was just window-dressing as nine of his 22 points were in the final 56 seconds of the game when Duke appeared to be trying desperately to let Krzyzewski get #903 at home. At the end of the game, Trice, Appling, and transfer Brandon Wood each played between 20 and 26 minutes. While we normally favor deep rotations where several players see a significant amount of playing time, when you have two point guards with such different styles — Trice creating for others while Appling creates for himself (neither had an assist last night, but that was more due to some horrific shooting off of potential assists from Trice). Although we prefer Trice from an aesthetic standpoint, either method can work, but we do not think that they will work together. Of course, if any coach can pull it off it is Tom Izzo and he has the necessary talented passing forward in Green to do it, but for now we think it would be best for his team to go in one direction or the other.
nvr1983 (1397 Posts)

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