The Duke Blue Devils have cruised through the NCAA Tournament so far, but the Michigan State Spartans will be a far more difficult test than any team Coach K’s squad has faced up to this point in the tournament. Coached by Tom Izzo, one of the better coaches in college basketball, the Spartans have put together quite the impressive 2012-2013 campaign. Want to know more about Duke’s newest opponent? We have you covered:
- Overall Record: 27-8
- Conference Record: 13-5 (2nd in Big-10)
- Strength of Schedule: 10.37 (2nd toughest in nation)
On paper, Michigan State looks very impressive. The Big-10 was a brutal powerhouse of a conference this year, with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State all making it to the Sweet-16 while Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin all made the tournament, as well. To come out of that conference with only five losses is phenomenal, and I don’t think you’re going to find many people willing to argue that the Spartans didn’t play one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
What I’m saying is they’re battle-tested, and there won’t be a level of play that Duke can bring that Michigan State hasn’t seen before.
Key Wins, Tough Losses:
The one luxury of playing in a difficult conference is that you have the opportunity to pick up impressive wins left and right. Michigan State took full advantage of this, picking up the following victories:
- 11/13 – 67-64 victory vs Kansas on neutral court
- 11/20 – 74-70 victory vs Boise State
- 1/19 – 59-56 victory vs Ohio State
- 1/22 – 49-47 victory @ Wisconsin
- 11/31 – 80-75 victory vs Illinois
- 2/6 – 61-50 victory vs Minnesota
- 2/12 – 75-52 victory vs Michigan
- 3/7 – 58-43 victory vs Wisconsin
- 3/23 – 70-48 victory vs Memphis (NCAA Tournament 3rd Round)
All of those victories came against teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season. A collection of 9 wins against that group is very impressive, and the Spartans were probably a win or two away from picking up a No. 2 seed of their own.
As far as ugly losses go, they had a season-opening, 66-62 loss against an average, but talented UConn team, but that is about as ugly as it gets. All but one of their eight losses came against Top-25 teams, with the only exception being a 67-59 setback against a Miami team that would go on to win the ACC regular season and tournament title.
The Spartans are led by Junior forward Adreian Payne. The 6’10, 240 lb monster is averaging 10.4ppg, 7.5rpg, and 1.3bpg to go along with a PER of 24.1 and 6.4 WS. Payne is solid on both ends and, while he doesn’t have the ability to completely take over a game, he is a dominant force that gives steady contribution every second he is on the floor.
They utilize a very balance scoring attack, with four different players averaging double-digits (and a 5th averaging 9.1ppg). When you play Michigan State, it isn’t as simple as shutting down one or two dominant players, but shutting down the entire offense as a whole. This isn’t to say that their offense is frightening, as they are only the 91st most efficient team in the nation, but they can hurt you in a lot of ways.
Defensively, they are about as fundamental and complete of a team as you’ll find. Everyone on the team that has put in a substantial amount of minutes this season has at least a 1.9 DWS, and they boast the 18th most efficient defense in the nation, an impressive stat even before you consider how difficult of a schedule they played.