Just a couple of thoughts after watching Duke defeat Michigan St. 71-61… The Blue Devils are tough, they are really tough. You just don’t wear down a Tom Izzo coached Michigan St. team, but that’s exactly what Duke did. They matched the Spartans physically early. Seth Curry was carried Duke offensively for much of the game, and then Duke’s defense in particular the interior defense just took over.
Many people questioned if Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee could handle the Spartan center Derrick Nix, but handle him they did to the tune of 3-10 shooting and 9 points. Duke is playing with a chip on it’s shoulder and that’s probably the way Coach K likes it. Ever since the loss to Maryland, the Blue Devils have been undersold. Creighton was the trendy upset pick. If they didn’t get them certainly the Spartans and their physical bruising play would. Neither happened and now Duke finds itself paying Louisville for a shot at the Final 4.
It’s a shame that due to the committee’s lack of foresight, the two best teams left in the tournament are playing in the Elite 8, while number 1 seeds like Kansas and Indiana didn’t get past the Sweet 16, and Gonzaga didn’t even reach the NCAA’s 2nd weekend. Duke will have to play exceptionally well to beat the Cardinals maybe even better than they did against Michigan St., but they can beat Louisville.
Yes I understand that in the first meeting with Louisville, Duke won 76-71. Cardinal big man Gorgui Dieng did not play, but Duke isn’t the the same team either. Duke is playing arguably the best defense of anyone left in the tournament, and is a much improved defensive team since that game in November. Now if you ask Charles Barkley, Michigan St. just played bad offense and Duke’s defense really wasn’t anything special.
That’s seriously what he said in his post-game analysis… well if you’d call it analysis. I said this earlier in the tournament Charles Barkley has been awful during the NCAAs. His lack of knowledge of the collegiate game is mind boggling, and tonight he reached a new low. I will agree Michigan St. missed some open looks, but Duke’s post-defense was outstanding. Going back to Kelly and Plumlee, they played 75 of a possible 80 minutes. That was Duke’s post presence against Michigan St, and we said they held their own. Contrary to Barkley’s view, the Blue Devils were great defensively in holding the Spartans to 61 points.
Sunday against Louisville should be an outstanding game. I don’t think the Duke guards will be rattled by the Louisville press. I don’t see that as a huge key. What I do think is a huge key is Duke doesn’t go deep into its bench, Louisville does. Duke may need more contributions from its bench or risk getting wore down. 8 players get significant minutes for Louisville and Rick Pitino will goes as many as 10 if needed. The Cardinals are playing extremely well, and Duke will need to hit the 3 point shot.
Against Michigan St. the Blue Devils shot a respectable 39%, but only 1 3 pointer was made by anyone not named Seth Curry. You can’t expect Curry to go 6 for 9 for long range again. Others will need to step up for Duke to make another trip to the Final 4. I’m looking forward to this one.