Michigan State basketball faces Duke for all the marbles in Elite Eight

EAST LANSING, MI - MARCH 09: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans huddles with his team during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Breslin Center on March 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - MARCH 09: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans huddles with his team during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Breslin Center on March 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Duke has had Michigan State basketball’s number over the years, but can the Spartans finally end the drought on Sunday night?

Michigan State won its Sweet 16 game against LSU, 80-63, while Duke squeaked out a win against the ACC foe Virginia Tech.

Must Read: MSU basketball: 5 takeaways from Sweet 16 win over LSU

What an Elite Eight matchup this will be. Michigan State vs. Duke, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds of this region will square off against each other on Sunday night. This will be the toughest matchup Michigan State will have in the tournament this year.

Michigan State has had a fantastic season. The Spartans have been able to find ways to win most of their games even after Joshua Langford went down and people thought this team would falter. Then, late in the season, Nick Ward went down. People were starting to talk like they were done, not able to go anywhere in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament.

Well, this gang of Spartans fought together and have been able to lock down and find ways to win.

They have won against their biggest rival, Michigan, three times; they have been able to put a hush to all the talk, going out and winning the Big Ten Tournament. They are back in the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Michigan State will be tested in this matchup against a much more athletic Duke team. They’ll need to find a way to slow down freshman phenoms Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett. Will the Spartans have enough will power to advance past tournament-favorite Duke?

Michigan State is 1-4 against Duke in the tournament. Tom Izzo is 1-11 in his career against Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils. This is the team that MSU can never figure out how to beat. Can they do it this year?

The Spartans’ last win against Duke came in the regional semifinals in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

Here’s how you can watch Sunday’s game:

Date: Sunday, March 31
Time: 5:05 p.m. ET
Location: Washington D.C.
Venue: Capital One Arena
Live Stream: CBS Sports Live or March Madness Live

Keys to Victory

Cassius Winston will need to be on his game come Sunday and Michigan State need to protect the ball just like it did in this Sweet 16. It will need to crash the boards the and get those second-chance opportunities. Shooting the three is something the Spartans cleaned up in the Sweet 16 and they will need to continue this hot shooting come Sunday — Michigan State was 47 percent from the floor and 40 percent from long-range against LSU and this will need to be duplicated if these Spartans want to ‘upset’ Duke.

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Many Spartans are going to need to step up in this game. In the game against LSU it was two freshman who shined, Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown. In this game, it could be Kenny Goins as he’s due for a huge game. It could be Matt McQuaid and his shooting or it could be the Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston. Whoever it is, Michigan State will need those one or two guys to step it up and have big games to advance past the Blue Devils.

Duke has been led by a few freshman all season long. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett have been the heart and soul of this team. They have that freshman bond, that connection where they just know where each other are going to be at all times on the court. Zion is the most athletic college player this year while Barrett is one of the best scorers this year.

Zion is almost un-guardable, if you try and cut him off he is quick enough and athletic enough to spin out and have position underneath you. If you don’t body him up and cut him off then you will let him get the ball where he wants it. The only thing you can do is double-team him and have quick guys to get back to their defender on the perimeter. Barrett is one of the best at getting what he wants when he wants it, too.

Michigan State will try to take his lane game out of play on Sunday. How much longer can this Duke team live with these freshman? Can these freshman continue to play at such a high level on such a high stage with the world expecting them to win it all? We will just have to wait and see.

Players to Watch

Aaron Henry has been improving every game in the tourney. Just a week ago, he was the hot topic for getting yelled at by Tom Izzo. Since then, he has stepped up his game play in a huge way. Henry has been quicker to get to the ball, he has had more energy and seems to want it more since the coaching from Izzo.

In his last two games, Henry is averaging 14.5 points on 13-of-19 shooting with 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He has been hustling to the ball and his desire to be on the floor and make plays is impressive. This all because of Izzo.

Michigan State will need Henry to continue this trend upwards if we want to escape away with our second victory over the Blue Devils on Sunday. Will he be able to steal the lime light away from the Zion and Barrett?

Cam Reddish: We all know the type of show Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett can put up night in and night out. They are always talked about but someone who is flying under the radar could be Reddish. He was not able to play in his Sweet 16 game against Virginia Tech which was due to a knee injury to where he was limping and something was not feeling right. Coach K and Co. did not know that he was not going to perform until right before the game.

Reddish is Duke’s best sniper from deep and if he can’t go that will limit their options from downtown. Tre Jones stepped up and hit 5-of-7 from deep but he normally does not shoot from long-range. If Reddish cannot go again can Jones continue this shooting? All eyes will be on whether or not he’ll be able to play in this game. His ability to play or not will effect the entire game — both Duke’s offense and Michigan State’s defense and how it defends.


This game will be a back-and-forth game. Both teams will go on mini runs of their own to hold double-digit leads over the other. However it will all even out in the end and comedown to the final minutes with the game tied at 75. Michigan State will have the ball and Winston will drive and kick to McQuaid for a huge three, putting it up three.

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On the other end, Zion will have to work for it but get a bucket in the paint. Then Xavier Tillman will get a nice pass from Winston for an easy layup but will get fouled to go up by two scores. He makes his free throw to go up four. Barrett will then miss a jumper and Winston will run the clock down and hit a floater to start to pull away.

Prediction: Michigan State 87, Duke 77