Michigan State +2 1/2 and Duke -2 1/2

Tim Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski are amongst the best that have ever coached this great game. Coach K built a Duke program into a national powerhouse from the ground up and has had a steady stream of McDonalds All Americans and other highly touted prospects every year. Coach Izzo does this a little differently, he has certainly had his fair share of five star recruits; however he uses his gut in recruiting and finds tough minded kids that can play his style of basketball. These two teams play very different styles. You would compare a Duke game to a track meet while a Michigan St. game can look more like a wrestling match. With 2 teams built in different ways and two legendary coaches this contest is certain to be one of the best we have had thus far.

Duke has not dominated the competition as they would have hoped so far in the tournament. They let Albany hang around and keep the game at an arm’s reach in their 2nd round matchup. They then faced a Creighton team that was certainly capable of scoring. Duke held a slim 6 point lead at the half and proceeded to pull away in the second half for a 66-50 victory. Duke shot only 39% from the floor and never really seemed to get on track. They did do a good job on Creighton star Doug McDermott by holding him to only 4 made baskets. Duke also spent the majority of the game in foul trouble which may have led to their inconsistent play.

Michigan State has shown that the Big 10 is indeed the strongest conference in America. They handled Valpo in the 2nd round; setting up a matchup with a 30 win Memphis team that is always dangerous. Memphis was also coming off their first tourney win under Coach Josh Pastner, making this game appear to be one to watch out for. After a close first half in which Michigan State led by 3 at halftime, the Spartans dominated the second half and crushed Memphis by a score of 70-48. Gary Harris led the way with 23 points. Big men Adrien Payne and Derrick Nix combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds while Payne threw in 5 blocked shots. They did this despite an injury to guard Keith Appling, who hurt his shoulder and never returned to the game.

These teams are rather evenly matched. Michigan State certainly prefers to play a physical style however Duke has the ability to get big inside as well. Mason Plumlee is a dominant low post scorer and Ryan Kelly has the size and positional rebounding skills to go against Payne, Nix and the rest of the Michigan State frontline. Duke probably has a slight advantage in the backcourt as the health of Appling is uncertain. Seth Curry is a proven veteran who has shown he is capable of taking over a game. Sophomore Quinn Cook has solidified himself as big time point guard and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon has been extremely impressive thus far.

In the end depth will prevail. Michigan State has the deeper team and can recover from foul trouble with a deep bench. Michigan State will get this game at their tempo and eliminate 2nd chance points.

Ray's Free Pick: Take Michigan State +2

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