Defense key for Duke against Michigan State
Posted March 28, 2013
Updated March 29, 2013
Indianapolis — Indianapolis is familiar territory for Duke and Michigan State. It was just three years ago that the two teams played in Lucas Oil Stadium during NCAA tournament play, but that weekend, the stage was a little bigger.
In 2010, Duke and Michigan State joined West Virginia and Butler in the Final Four with a trip to the National Championship game on the line. This time in Indy, the two teams will face each other with the hopes of keeping Final Four dreams alive.
In that 2010 meeting, then freshmen Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee sat court side at Lucas Oil and watched as Nolan Smith, Brian Zoubek and Kyle Singler carried the Blue Devils to a national championship victory. This time around, it's their team -- and the seniors aren't ready to end their careers at Duke just yet.
"There are certainly some good memories from this building," said Kelly, "We're looking forward to making some better ones."
So what will it take?
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said Thursday that Duke isn't the type of team that will beat themselves. They are well disciplined and shoot the ball well. They aren't going to make mistakes. And there is no question that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will make sure that his team is prepared.
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, can expect the same from an Izzo coached team. A sound defensive effort, a mistake-free game and a group full of offensive threats.
"They show up to play as one, that's the very first thing. So you better show up to play as one," Krzyzewski said. "They play outstanding defense and they rebound offensively better than anyone in the country. So those three areas, more so than an individual, are the things that concern me."
Duke played their best defensive game of the season last weekend against Creighton and if the Blue Devils can match that effort, they will eliminate one of Michigan State's biggest threats -- rebounding. The Blue Devils need to limit Michigan State's second chance opportunities. The team averages 68 points per game and does not rely on a very high number of three-pointers. Taking away those second chances underneath will give Duke an immediate advantage.
"They have a reputation of being a very tough team, but at the same time, I feel as if we are a tough team as well," said Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon. "If we battle those guys on the boards, it's going to be a big key to the game."
Michigan State's starting five are all offensive threats, averaging around 10 points a piece per game. Duke cannot focus on one player because they will get burned by four others. The Blue Devils' defensive effort has to be evenly focused on the entire team, every player will be held responsible for locking up their opposing man.
Duke's advantages will come from outside the arc, as inside Duke will have a difficult time with Michigan State's big men. Adreian Payne alone has 44 blocks on the season.
"They have four or five players that can shoot threes, that's a huge threat," Payne said. "When they are hitting threes and are rolling, it's hard to stop."
And that's exactly what the Blue Devils will have to do. Their perimeter game will be key.
The X-factor in this game will be Sulaimon. He provides a threat that Michigan State may not be able to stop, an inside and outside game. The Blue Devils are quite capable of getting the win, but they will have to stick to their game plan.
Coach Izzo may have said it best, "You better saddle up, because there will be nothing given. Everything will be earned in this matchup."