Three Takeaways From Duke’s Win Over Michigan State

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 23: Javin DeLaurier
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 23: Javin DeLaurier /

Grayson Allen, with a career high 37 points, delivered Duke a victory over Michigan State last night. The win pushed Coach K to 11-1 against Tom Izzo – a truly stunning statistic. Given Marvin Bagley’s early injury, it is difficult to take too much away from the game. Duke used lineups that will likely not be seen again. Regardless, fans still glimpsed Duke’s potential in the win over one of the best teams in the country.

Here are three takeaways:

1) This Duke Team Is Unlike Recent Duke Teams.

Since the turn of the century, Duke has been led by dynamic perimeter players. Think Jason Williams, JJ Redick, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Luke Kennard. Usually, Duke is a great shooting team and a mediocre to poor rebounding team. This team seems to be built in the opposite way.

This team can REALLY rebound. Duke crushed Michigan State on the boards, a team well-known for its dominance on the boards and overall toughness. This year’s Michigan State won’t be any different. They start to future NBA players in the front-court in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, Jr. Additionally, the 6’8″ Nick Ward showed his own potential with 19 points but only 5 boards.

Despite Michigan State’s front court talented, Duke out-rebounded the Spartans 46-34 and grabbed 25(!) offensive rebounds. Rebounding will be one Duke’s greatest strengths all year.

On a lesser note, Duke will struggle to shoot the ball at times this year. Trevon Duval, for as great his played, lacked confidence behind the arc. He hesitated multiple times and was 0-3 from deep. Gary Trent, Jr., despite his hot start, had a poor shooting night going 3-14 from the field and 1-7 from deep.

Allen bailed Duke out last night. He was 7-11 from deep and consistently hit big shots to keep Duke in the game, give Duke the lead, and then finally extend the lead late. Allen is now an unbelievable 17-26 from the three-point line this season. While it’s incredible to watch, such a rate is unsustainable  and Allen will assuredly regress.

2) Duval Is Exactly What Duke Needs.

While I may have been a little harsh on Duval for his outside shooting, he played an incredible game against the Spartans. Duval had 10 assists while adding 17 points and 6 steals. He was particularly effective running the break and a consistent pest on defense.

The last time Coach K had a pass-first point guard (Tyus Jones), Duke won the National Championship. With all of the talent surrounding Duval, he does not need to be a volume scorer. He needs to run the offense and set up his teammates. So far, he has been excellent with 30 assists in his first 3 games. If he keeps this up, Duke is poised to make a deep run in March.

However, the shooting is a concern. In only his third college game, Michigan State was sagging off Duval and daring him to shoot. He must be able to knock down the open three-pointers or opponents will be able to crowd driving lanes and double team Duke’s big men.

3) Duke Also Needs Bagley.

While Duke found a way to win against MSU, some flaws were subtly exposed. Marques Bolden looks like he will fail to live up to expectations again. Vrankovic was out-matched. Even Carter struggled at times during the game. Javen DeLaurier has been a pleasant surprise and should remain a significant contributor.

However, Duke struggled to get easy baskets for most of the night. When Duke wasn’t scoring in transition, the half court offense looked a little stagnant. It was telling that Coach K played significant stretches of the game with unheralded freshman Jordan Goldwire with Grayson, Trent, and Duval rather than continuing with the big men.

Next: Young Duke Team Overcomes Adversity Against MSU

Grayson will not score 37 points every night. He won’t be able to hit deep, challenged three-pointers every time we need a bucket late in the shot clock.

That’s where Bagley comes in. He will be another primary scoring option from Duke. He will also prevent Carter from facing frequent double teams. And if the opponents double him…. Grayson’s three-pointers will be freebies.