The No. 2 seed Blue Devils face off with the No. 3 seed Spartans tonight at 9:45 for the right to play the winner of Louisville/Oregon in the Elite 8. Here are the keys to tonight's Sweet 16 matchup.
Stay competitive on the boards
Duke's trouble rebounding the ball has been well documented—as has Michigan State's strength in that category. The Blue Devils rank 213th in the nation for rebounding, while the Spartans sit at the 55th spot. It will be imperative for Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Josh Hairston to box out and keep big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix off the glass. Duke proved it could be physical on the boards against Creighton, a game in which the Blue Devils out-muscled the Bluejays to take a +6 advantage on the glass. Without a similar effort tonight, it will be Michigan State could find itself in complete control.
Get Ryan Kelly going
Kelly has been ice cold going back to his Senior Day game against Virginia Tech. The senior forward scored just one point against Creighton in the Round of 32, and hasn't scored in double-figures in any of his last four games. He is also 0-for his last 14 attempts from beyond the arc. Kelly's shooting touch will be a key for the Blue Devils offensively, as his ability to spread the floor substantially opens the middle up for Mason Plumlee to operate in the paint ,while also forcing defenders to leave their men to help out on the 6-foot-11 shooter. If Kelly continues to struggle from long range, Duke may struggle to get its offense working.
Stop Gary Harris
Tonight's game will be a homecoming of sorts for Tom Izzo's 6-foot-4 freshman, who is originally from Fishers, Indiana. Harris is considered a likely lottery pick if he declares for the 2013 NBA Draft, and showed why during his Round of 32 game against Memphis. Harris torched the Tigers for 23 points in just 25 minutes of action, draining 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Harris represents Michigan State's only true 3-point threat, as he's a nearly 42 percent shooter from distance. It will be the responsibilities of Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton to slow down the Spartans' prolific scorer.
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