Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 81, #7 Michigan State 61

Posted by Naveen Reddy on April 4th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.

Talk about a bounce back performance - Jahlil Okafor was outstanding against the Spartans. (AP Photo/Chris Steppig, Pool)

Talk about a bounce back performance – Jahlil Okafor was outstanding against the Spartans. (AP Photo/Chris Steppig, Pool)

  1. Michigan State was simply overmatched. We don’t want to take away anything from the Spartans’ remarkable run. They went from a team that at times this season made us wonder if they would make the NCAA Tournament to one that made the Final Four. The truth is they were not anywhere near the level of the other three teams here. The fact that they got here is a testament to just how good of a coach Tom Izzo is and how tough this team was, but they just didn’t have the talent to compete. Their early hot start (going 5-of-7 from the field including 4-of-4 from three) made things interesting when they jumped out to a 14-6 lead, but then they regressed the mean and reality set in. They proceeded to hit just 3 of their next 20 shots and go 0-of-5 from three to end the half to fall behind 36-25. Denzel Valentine (19 points and 9 rebounds), Branden Dawson (12 points and 7 rebounds), and Travis Trice (16 points and 5 assists) all had solid performances, but it wasn’t enough. While an 11-point lead at halftime is far from insurmountable, when you are this overmatched it essentially is. Once Michigan State cooled off, you knew this one was over.
  2. Duke just took care of business. Nobody on Duke played out of their mind, but everybody chipped in from Jahlil Okafor (18 points and 6 rebounds) to Grayson Allen (9 points including an emphatic dunk in the second half that served as an exclamation mark even if it was early in the second half). It was a total team effort from Duke in a victory that was never in doubt. Coming into tonight we didn’t really see a way that Michigan State could win, but a lot of people have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Tom Izzo in such situations. Justice Winslow was simply dominant and while we is too good and consistent to be considered an X-factor when he is truly “on” he takes them to another level. While Duke is far from a one-man team, he will need to be at his best on Monday night if they are going to win especially against Kentucky.
  3. Monday night is going to be crazy. We normally save this for the last section of these posts, but honestly we can barely contain ourselves right now. We know that Duke-Kentucky is the game that every CBS executive wants (ok, it’s not just them), but Duke-Wisconsin wold be fascinating in its own right with Okafor facing Frank Kaminsky in what essentially will be a head-to-head workout that every NBA executive with a top-5 pick will be keeping track of. On the perimeter, you could potentially have Winslow and Sam Dekker (potentially two of the top perimeter picks in this year’s NBA Draft if they decided to leave) going against each other. If it ends up being Duke-Kentucky, you would have lottery picks all over the court (and for Kentucky some coming off the bench) in a game that might be the most highly anticipated game in college basketball history (we aren’t exaggerating).

Unfortunately for Michigan State, its incredible tourney run came to an end Saturday evening. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Unfortunately for Michigan State, its incredible tourney run came to an end Saturday evening. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Star of the Game. Justice Winslow, Duke. We all know that Okafor is the best player on this team, but Winslow is the force that takes them to another level. When is on like he was tonight, they are almost unbeatable. He got through some early foul trouble to put up a ridiculous line: 19 points (on 7 field goals attempts) and 9 rebounds. It was the type of performance that has to have NBA teams salivating over.


Quotable. “We played the best we have this Tournament.” – Mike Krzyzewski echoing what we said about the total team effort. They will need a repeat performance in terms of their overall play if they want to give Krzyzewski his fifth title on Monday night.


Sights & Sounds. We are not sure if it was evident on television, but Lucas Oil (a cavernous football stadium) was packed from the tip. Outside of a scattered patch or two we could not identify any empty seats. With Kentucky and Wisconsin making up the majority of the fans in Indianapolis this weekend, we would not have been surprised to see those fans filing in as the game wore on especially since they could have eaten at a bunch of restaurants nearby with this game starting at 6 and their game probably not starting until 9:30, but almost all of them were there from the start.


Miscellaneous. If we had the Count from Sesame Street writing for us, tonight’s number would be nine as in Monday night will be Mike Krzyzewski’s ninth title game appearance and this loss drops Tom Izzo to 1-9 all-time against Duke.


What’s Next? We are looking at the possibility Duke facing Wisconsin in a rematch of their 80-70 win in Madison on December 3, which Tyus Jones (22 points on 11 field goal attempts, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists with just 1 turnover) and Traevon Jackson (25 points on 12 field goal attempts, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists) stole the spotlight from the more-heralded centers. If they do meet again, we probably won’t see as much of Jackson, but keep an eye on Jones even if the media will focus on the big guys in the middle. Oh, and if that other team (the one that would be 39-0) wins, we are pretty sure that would get the type of overblown media coverage that is typically reserved for the Super Bowl.
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