Michigan State vs. Duke Picks and Sweet 16 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/29/2013
There are some great matchups in this year’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, no doubt, but I don’t think it’s close as to which is the marquee game: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke on Friday night in Indianapolis for the right to likely face No. 1 overall seed and tournament favorite Louisville on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
MSU and Duke each have a Hall of Fame coach in Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski, respectively. They have combined for 17 Final Four trips, and Sparty is the last Big Ten team to win it all, in 2000. This is MSU's 11th Sweet 16 in the past 16 years under Izzo. Only Duke has more in that time with 13. Izzo isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet but is a lock, and Krzyzewski already is in. Both guys have stayed at their programs despite big-time offers from the NBA: Coach K to coach Kobe Bryant with the Lakers and Izzo to (potentially) coach LeBron James in Cleveland. They will both be lifers at their respective schools.
The teams haven’t played this season, but Coach K already leads 1-0 over Izzo. That’s because Chicago prep star Jabari Parker, arguably the top overall recruit in the nation, chose Duke over Michigan State in late December. Duke landing such a highly-touted recruit is nothing new, but Izzo usually isn’t able to do that in East Lansing, so it would have been a coup. The Spartans were so heavy after Parker that they didn’t have another recruit for their 2013 class until recently adding just one.
Michigan State vs. Duke Betting Story Lines
Let’s start with the key injury first, which apparently isn’t a big deal. Michigan State point guard Keith Appling, the engine that makes MSU go, missed the final 8:35 of last Saturday’s surprisingly easy win over Memphis after his right shoulder popped out. It’s not that first time this season it has happened to Appling, and he didn’t miss any games. Izzo said Appling could have gone back in but chose to sit him with the game not in doubt. He will start.
The Spartans have had no trouble in beating No. 14 Valparaiso and No. 6 Memphis, easily covering in both. Each also went “under” as have seven of Sparty’s past eight games overall. Derrick Nix, the only senior on MSU’s roster, has dominated down low thus far with 23 points and 15 boards against Valpo and 13 points, eight rebounds and four steals against the Tigers. He and Adreian Payne give Michigan State one of the most physical frontcourts in the tournament, and the Spartans have destroyed their first two opponents on the glass, which is an Izzo trademark.
Duke also has yet to be challenged, beating No. 15 Albany 73-61 in a game that may have been closer than expected (Blue Devils were -18.5) but was never in doubt as well as stopping No. 7 Creighton, 66-50. Duke is known as an offensive team, but that defensive performance against the Bluejays was highly-impressive. Creighton leads the nation in field-goal percentage but scored by far its fewest points of the season and was 16-for-53 overall from the field and an ugly 2-for-19 from long range.
One concern I would have if I’m a Duke backer is senior forward Ryan Kelly. He missed 13 games this season and Duke lost four of them. With him, they were unbeaten in the regular season. However, starting with the regular-season finale at North Carolina, Kelly hasn’t scored more than eight points. He was held to a season-low one point and missed all five shots against Creighton. To be fair, he was in foul trouble while guarding Bluejays all-American Doug McDermott. Duke shot only 38.8 percent itself against Creighton, and that won’t get it done Friday.
The Sweet 16 hasn’t been kind of late to Duke as of the past five Blue Devil teams to make it this far, only one moved on. That was the 2010 team that beat a Big Ten club (Purdue) in this round on the way to winning the national title in Indianapolis, where Friday’s game is. Sparty is 2-1 in its past three Sweet 16 games, losing to Louisville in last season’s regional final.
Michigan State vs. Duke Sweet 16 Betting Odds and Key Trends
At WagerWeb, Duke is a two-point favorite (-140 on moneyline) with the total at 134. MSU is 14-16-2 ATS this season (5-5-1 away) and 13-18 “over/under” (5-6 away). Duke is 18-16 ATS (3-6 away) and 17-16 O/U (5-4 away).
Michigan State is 1-4-1 ATS in its past six after a win. The Spartans are 4-1-1 ATS in their past six after an ATS win. Duke is 7-2 ATS in its past nine neutral-site games. It is 2-5 ATS in its past seven against the Big Ten. The Blue Devils are 1-4 ATS in their past five NCAA Tournament games. The under is 4-0 in MSU’s past four nonconference games. The under is 5-1 in Duke’s past six non-conference games.
Michigan State vs. Duke Picks and Betting Predictions
This appears to be a game of opposites. Duke is a high-scoring finesse team that lives largely on the perimeter and was No. 4 nationally in three-point field-goal shooting. MSU, which was No. 17 in the nation in three-point defense, is an old-school Big Ten club that isn’t a great offensive team but excels at rebounding and defense. The Spartans will try to pound it down low to Nix and Payne, and the Blue Devils are very thin in frontcourt depth or bulk, so if Mason Plumlee gets into foul trouble as he did against Creighton (fouled out), then Duke is probably cooked.
Coach K has had Izzo’s number, going 7-1 against the Spartans in his career. The teams haven’t played since early last season in Madison Square Garden (won by Duke). Their last NCAA Tournament matchup was in the 2005 Sweet 16 when Michigan State beat Duke 78-68 in Austin.
If this was a quick turnaround game as in the Elite Eight, I’d probably lean Michigan State, because it could wear Duke down. That’s not likely to happen here. As noted above, Plumlee is the key in staying on the court. When he last fouled out before the Creighton game, Duke was beaten by a Maryland team that also has size like MSU. Presuming Plumlee can avoid foul trouble, take Duke and the under.
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