Michigan State vs. Duke: Bench Players Who Will Decide Contest

Eric BostContributor IIIMarch 29, 2013

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 23:  (L-R) Adreian Payne #5, Gary Harris #14 and Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate on the bench against the Memphis Tigers during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 23, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats and Ohio State Buckeyes gave us a thriller last night. The games after, however, were far from that. After the first Sweet 16 game came down to a last-second shot, the other three were double-digit games, none of which were really that competitive.

Today, the Michigan State Spartans and Duke Blue Devils look to live up to the billing. These two teams match up well together. Both team's starters can spread the floor and shoot from the perimeter. Because of that, this game might come down to what bench players can step up their game and send their team to the Elite Eight.

Here are a few bench players just waiting to become stars in this Sweet 16 match-up.


Rasheed Sulaimon, G, Duke

The 6'4'' freshman is the most-used bench player on Duke’s roster. Sulaimon gives Duke depth at the guard position and adds even more three-point shooting. So far he is 4-of-7 from three-point land, so watch for Sulaimon to give the Spartan defense problems from beyond the arc.


Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State

No. 45 in green and white brings more of an all-around game to the contest. Although Tom Izzo allows his starters to play most of the game, when Valentine is called in, he makes the most of his playing time.

In Michigan State’s second-round victory over Memphis, Valentine gave his team nine points and six rebounds. If Duke can’t seem to hit their shots tonight, look for Valentine to aid in crashing the boards to secure rebounds.

Tyler Thornton, G, Duke

Although he doesn't get the credit or have the statistics that Sulaimon does, Tyler Thornton adds more leadership when coming off the bench for the Blue Devils. The junior has the most bench minutes with 22.1 per game this year. If things get hectic at points and Sulaimon can’s seem to find his shooting touch, Thornton will be there to calm things down for Duke.


Travis Trice, G, Michigan State

The undersized guard may be small, but he adds the bench scoring that the Spartans need if Michigan State wants to take down the Blue Devils.

Trice is only six feet tall and 170 pounds, but he has shown he can score while coming off the bench. He averages 4.7 points per game, so if the Spartan starters can’t find the rim, Trice can come in and give his team some much-needed points.