Duke Basketball: Keys to Blue Devils Defeating Michigan State in Sweet 16

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIMarch 25, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 24:  Tyler Thornton #3 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teammates Quinn Cook #2 and Rasheed Sulaimon #14 and Thornton makes a shot at the buzzer at halftime against the Creighton Bluejays during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Center on March 24, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils are preparing for their toughest matchup up this point in the NCAA tournament against the Michigan State Spartans.  In order for them to win, they will need to make sure they do a few very important things well.

The first two wins in the tournament for Duke may not have been as convincing as they would have liked them to be, but they aren’t complaining since they are still in the tourney.  Albany and Creighton put up good fights, but that will be nothing compared to how tough the game against the Spartans will be.

It’s not going to be pretty, but the Blue Devils certainly have the tools to come away with a win in the Sweet 16 and head to the Elite Eight, as long as they focus on a few areas.

Don’t Let Gary Harris Get Open

Gary Harris may only be a freshman, but he has been one of the most exciting players to watch on the Spartans. 

Even as a freshman, Harris is shooting the ball incredibly well.  He’s averaging 13.1 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting and 41.9 percent from behind the arc.  He had the best game of his career in the round of 32, scoring 23 points on 6-for-9 shooting including four made three-pointers.

The Blue Devils need to contain Harris and make sure he doesn’t open shots from outside.  Harris is a pretty good shooter, but he is incredibly deadly when left given a fair amount of space.  As long as he isn’t given that space, he won’t make as much of an impact.


Protect the Paint

One of the bigger reasons that Memphis struggled against the Spartans was that they were unable to protect the paint, leaving guys like Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix wide open for easy dunks and points.

Luckily for the Blue Devils, they have a dominating presence in Mason Plumlee. He’s a beast in the paint that does a great job altering opponents’ shots and limits points in the paint.  According to Sports-Reference.com, Plumlee led the ACC with 3.8 defensive win shares.

The Spartans have a great frontcourt that could turn the tide of this game.  As long as Plumlee plays as well defensively as he usually does, Payne and Nix won’t find as much success down low.


Drain Shots from Downtown

This game will hinge on how well Duke can shoot the three.  They shoot 40.3 percent from behind the arc, the fifth best percentage in the nation.  Guys like Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly have been big contributors to the long range game, and they will need to do just that against Michigan State.

The Spartans are excellent at defending the three, making Duke’s success from long range even more crucial to winning.  As a team, the Spartans hold their opponents to only 29.7 percent from downtown.  That’s one of the best in the nation, and it really keeps teams from pulling away or coming back from big deficits.

As long as Curry and Kelly find their shot, the game will be in Duke’s advantage.  If not, the Spartans will keep this game close and have the chance to pull out a win against Coach K.



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