Michigan State vs. Duke: Why the Spartans Will Win


The Michigan State basketball team is on a bit of the roll, you might say. How well they’re playing now is a far cry from where they were at the beginning of the season. One of those games, the second game to be exact, was against these same Duke Blue Devils who the Spartans face off against in the Final Four. In that game, MSU fought valiantly but still lost by 10. This time around, however, the outcome will be different and the Spartans will be playing in the National Championship Game on Monday night, and here’s why.

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It’s a combination of two ingredients that will be on Michigan State’s side that Duke doesn’t have: family atmosphere and desperation. Duke’s key players on the court are Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, not to discount Quinn Cook and others, as these are the three best players for Duke. All are freshman and all will be first round NBA draft picks with a bright future.

On the flip side, Michigan State’s three stars — Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine — have been in the program for three-plus years and will be at very best a late-first, early-second round pick, or even undrafted, and will have to scrap for every NBA minute.

The Duke players most certainly have the talent, there can be no questioning that, but have they truly bought in to one another? I, of course, am sure they’ve had great memories and have an appreciation for Duke, but let’s be honest, they’ve been there for less than a year; how close can they all really be?

Dawson, Trice and Valentine have been at MSU and fully bought in to everything the school has to offer. The tradition, Izzo and most importantly, each other. This Michigan State team has been through so much over not just this season but in seasons past as well. The ups of Big Ten Championships, the downs of getting knocked out in the Elite Eight last year; they have been through it all together.

Nov 28, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard/forward Branden Dawson (22), guard Travis Trice (20), guard

Bryn Forbes

(5) and teammates huddle up against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half at HP Field House. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This team has put in the time, sweat, tears and hard work during multiple off-seasons with one another and has seen the tangible results, improving year after year. The Spartans truly are a family, they play as one on the defensive end and are never selfish to disrupt the flow of the offense.

They have been with each other long enough to trust in the tightest moments that their teammate will be where they should without hesitation and they play for one another. This is one of the main reasons they are so much fun to root for, you can tell that when they are on the court together there is an absolute trust and a love to play together. Does Duke have that trust in the tight moments on the biggest stage?

I will say it again, Duke has the talent and these freshman are special and will most likely move on after one year of college to the NBA. They know that if they lose their basketball career will not die, and they will go onto bigger and better things in the NBA.

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  • While Valentine has one more year at MSU, if Trice and Dawson lose, their respective MSU careers are over. Each will be given the opportunity to play in the NBA and obviously if that doesn’t work, they can continue on in Europe.

    There is something much different in someone who is willing to move on when the season is over, the Duke freshman, than a senior who has exhausted eligibility and is being forced to never put on the MSU jersey again. It is very difficult to match that desperation element, which will bring forth extra focus, extra effort, extra everything while on the court. Can the Duke match that desperation element?

    Family and desperation, these will be the two factors that propel Michigan State over Duke this time around. Two keys that cannot be measured in shot percentages, player efficiency or rebounding numbers, but will play an integral part of why the Spartans outperform the Blue Devils in those categories. Duke may have the talent and the recruiting stars but Michigan State has two intangibles that can’t be measured.

    Next: MSU vs. Duke: Preview, Prediction