Let’s start this off by saying I think the Spartans’ impressive run through March ends now that it’s April. I’d prefer it didn’t, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
I can make a case (quite easily) for Izzo’s crew to pull off the upset Saturday afternoon…but the Blue Devils are going to punch their ticket to the Monday nighter.
Let’s have a closer look:
NCAA Final Four Odds: Duke -5
As you already know, I’ve got Duke filling one slot in the Championship matchup. But covering those five points, that’s another story altogether.
Both sides can point to a commitment on the defensive side of the ball for this #7 vs. #1 Final Four battle.
The Blue Devils weren’t fussed by the challenge of stifling Gonzaga, who were the #1 team in the country in field goal and three-point percentage. When it was time for the Zags to turn it up, Duke responded, holding them to a paltry four points in the final seven minutes of their Elite Eight match.
If Duke brings that defense to this game, the paths to victory for Michigan State get real narrow.
With offensive efficiency under the spotlight, Duke’s options create issues for Izzo. They don’t have the bigs to throw at Okafor all game and they are going to have to double him. Not at the start, but rest assured, it is going to happen. And when it does, Okafor will dish to the open guy, giving Duke its open shots.
Okafor’s been held in check the last two, resulting in a sort of “pick your poison” scenario, as Winslow went off at both ends while the big guy got all that attention.
It’s a key matchup the Spartans will struggle with.
The points are tempting, very tempting. But I think Duke pulls away late and covers the five points. Duke’s D can handle Michigan State, but despite how well the Spartan D has played this last while, the Blue Devil offensive options present too many problems.
Although I do so reluctantly, I am playing the Blue Devils (but the dog is a lot more appealing in the second game – write-up to be posted sometime soon).