No. 2-seed Duke enters its Round of 32 matchup as 6.5-point a favorite but has a tough draw against No. 7-seed Michigan State. The Blue Devils last played the Spartans in the 2020-21 season and lost, and the last time these two squads met in the NCAA tournament, Michigan State came out on top. Let's take a look at who our beats think will be moving on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Piazza: Duke 71-69
This is truly going to be a battle for all 40 minutes (and maybe even longer) for both teams. I think Michigan State is going to give big man Mark Williams a tough matchup against fellow 7-footer Marcus Bingham Jr. and ultimately, I think this is going to come down to perimeter shooting. If the Blue Devils can recapture some of the ridiculous 3-point efficiency they they had against Syracuse and Pittsburgh to end the regular season, then that'll be enough for head coach Mike Krzyzewski to get past Tom Izzo and his Spartans one last time.
Rego: Duke 74-70
Best matchup of the opening weekend. No doubt about it. Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo facing off for the final time, with their respective teams looking to silence some of the naysayers. For Duke, it’s the talk of whether it can handle the big moment, after a pair of duds against North Carolina and Virginia Tech. For Michigan State, it’s whether a down year and an uncharacteristically average defense can still result in a Sweet Sixteen berth. I’m anticipating Jeremy Roach and AJ Griffin to have key roles in this one for the Blue Devils, while Gabe Brown and Joey Hauser figure to be crucial for the Spartans. In the end, though, the size edge Duke has inside will be too much down the stretch. 6.5 feels like a lot of points, but the Blue Devils should advance.
Jackson: Michigan State 72-66
As wild as it is to think this could be Coach K’s last game ever, I think Michigan State has a real shot at pulling off the upset here. Duke was anything but perfect in its win over Cal State Fullerton. Despite the 17-point win, the Blue Devils had turnover issues, let up offensive rebounds, struggled to shoot from deep and struggled in transition. The Spartans on the other hand, battled Davidson for a full 40 minutes and Hauser had a career night. His footwork and outside scoring ability could give Mark Williams or Paolo Banchero some defensive issues. I’m not writing Duke off here, but it’s March and Michigan State is a veteran team. Coach K is really going to have to settle down his guys if they want to carry on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Kolin: Duke 84-76
This one’s going to be tough. Everyone underestimates those second-round matchups for high-seeded teams, but these are usually all tough matchups, and Duke’s going to need to come to play. The battle inside between Mark Williams and Hauser/Bingham is going to be essential, and Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin need to start hitting their threes if the Blue Devils want to get back to playing their basketball. But in the end, I think Duke’s talent will win out.
Moregenstern: Duke 75-73
The Blue Devils struggled against No. 15-seed Cal State Fullerton. So did the Spartans in their matchup with Davidson. Duke has more firepower and I think it has the heavy hitters to push Michigan State out of the dance. But don’t discount the human factor—we don’t know how well Wendell Moore Jr. has recovered from his hip injury from Friday's game. The bottom line is that any Izzo vs. Krzyzewski matchup will probably be a nail-biter. Sunday night will be no exception.
Richie: Duke 76-71
Duke is 13-4 all-time against Michigan State and looks to be getting in the groove after routing Cal State Fullerton in the first round. However, Tom Izzo and company have beaten talent such as the likes of Purdue and Wisconsin, not to mention that the program’s four wins against Duke are some its biggest moments (ahem 2019). Thus, I’m not banking on a Blue Devil blowout, nor am I writing this one off as a for-sure win regardless of the Spartans’ No. 7 seed. When it comes down to it, though, I think Duke will escape the second round on the back of its size and scoring depth, as well as my own not insignificant belief in a good narrative.
Hurewitz: Duke 74-64
So they survived. Next up? Coach K’s favorite coach to beat—especially in March. Though Michigan State can claim two of the last three matchups against Duke, including the one that ended Duke’s most recent tournament run in 2019, this looks to be a favorable matchup for the Blue Devils. Though their high-ranking 3-point shooting could pose some issues for Duke, which all of a sudden cannot seem to guard the deep ball (look at games against North Carolina, Syracuse, Miami, Virginia Tech), the Blue Devils have a clear talent advantage and in the end that will be enough to get Krzyzewski to the Sweet Sixteen for the 26th time. Michigan State is likely exhausted from its late win against Davidson, while the Blue Devils just need to make sure their legs can stay under themselves—literally—to grab the solid win.
Levitan: Duke 77-65
After celebrating the end of their two-year hiatus in Friday’s win against Cal State Fullerton, the Blue Devils now get another favorable matchup against the Spartans, who despite a history of success in March, aren’t in the same tier this season as Duke. After all, Michigan State was not ranked in the first or last AP Poll. The main story, then, revolves around Duke: in a high-stakes, high-attention matchup, do the Blue Devils rise to the occasion, as they did in November against Gonzaga or Kentucky? Or do they fall short on the biggest stage, as they did in March losses to North Carolina and Virginia Tech? After seeing how this team handled its first taste of the Big Dance against the Titans, I’ll side with the former. Duke should make short work of the Spartans.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.