March Madness – (7) Michigan State vs. (1) Duke (Final Four)

(7) Michigan State Spartans vs. (1) Duke Blue Devils (-5, 138.5 o/u)

Today’s Final Four game between the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans (27-11, 12-6 Big Ten) and No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (33-4, 15-3 ACC) is actually a rematch from earlier this season when the former lost to the latter by double-digits (81-71) on another neutral court in Indianapolis.

However, all parties involved know this game will be different.

“Michigan State, we beat them earlier, so I know they’re looking for some revenge,” said Duke guard Quinn Cook. “They’re a totally different team, and they’re playing with an edge. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. Nobody predicted them to get this far, and they’ve been proving everybody wrong. It’s been fun watching them.”

The Spartans have been led on their surprise Final Four run by guard Travis Trice; the senior scored 17 points in MSU’s Elite Eight win over Louisville nad is averaging nearly 20 PPG during the tournament.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski know his team will have its hands full.

“[Trice] has been the best player in the tournament, of any team,” Krzyzewski said. “Of any team. I don’t think there’s a kid playing any better than that kid. His confidence, it reminds me of when Chris Collins saved our season. …

“Trice is just out of sight right now, what he’s doing. The cockiness, the confidence – he’s a very difficult guy to defend.”

As for the Spartans, head coach Tom Izzo is starting to feel like, even though the squad isn’t his most talented in recent years, the team has something special.

“I’d like to tell you that I thought five different times this year that we were good enough to get to a Final Four, but I’d be lying to you,” Izzo said. “But I think the burning desire to be in this Final Four, and they didn’t want to be a group that didn’t make it. I think it was more of the battle cry all year long.”

Countering Trice in the back-court will be Duke’s trio of senior Quinn Cook, sophomore Matt Jones, and freshman Tyus Jones. All three were solid in the Blue Devils’ 66-52 Elite Eight win over Gonzaga; each scored in double-figures (16 for Matt Jones, 15 for Tyus Jones, and ten for Cook) and none committed a single turnover.

Big arenas like Lucas Oil Stadium – the sight of this year’s Final Four – can be hard to score in, leading to low-scoring games. However, linemakers already know that and both teams have trended to the over this season (Duke is 20-15-2, while MSU is 18-17). That’s why the play is the over (138.5).

(Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)