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The Two Best Coaches Of This Generation Square Off In Midwest Regional Semis

Posted by Washington Tucker on 3/25/2013 7:40:57 PM

The two best coaches in modern-day college basketball, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Tom Izzo of Michigan State, will match wits with each other this Friday night in Indianapolis.

Michigan State Spartans vs. Duke Blue Devils – Friday, March 29
Betting line: Duke -2

Why Michigan State Will Win

Even an online horse betting guru with a limited awareness of college basketball's finer points would say that Michigan State has a great chance to win this game. Duke's offense struggled on Sunday night against the Creighton Bluejays in the round of 32. Yes, this was partly due to Duke's foul trouble, but it has to be said that Duke big man Mason Plumlee has not been playing well for a number of weeks, not just against Creighton.

On Friday, Plumlee will have a very hard time going up against Michigan State big man Derrick Nix, who is much more powerful than most of the bigs Plumlee has played against in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last season, Plumlee had to deal with two skilled big men from North Carolina, Tyler Zeller and John Henson. This season, he has not been tested to the same degree. Michigan State's size and power will be very hard for Duke to deal with on Friday, and that's the biggest reason to take the Spartans.

Adreian Payne, who scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds plus five blocked shots on Saturday against Memphis, has been a monster for Michigan State in recent weeks at both ends of the floor. He is a very imposing NBA prospect, a likely success at the professional level who gives MSU great energy and consistency. Duke's Ryan Kelly is going to have a tough matchup with Payne, giving the Spartans yet another key advantage.

Why Duke Will Win

The winning poker hand Duke has in this matchup is not in the frontcourt, but in the backcourt. Yes, Michigan State's interior presence is formidable, but the Spartans are far less reliable on the perimeter, and this is where Duke can do so much damage. Michigan State point guard Keith Appling has been dealing with shoulder issues for much of the season. His shoulder experienced quite a bit of pain late in Saturday's win over Memphis, and even if Appling is able to play in this game, he's likely to be well below 100 percent, which is a huge setback for Michigan State.
Appling has to be able to score to make Michigan State's offense appreciably balanced and effective. Gary Harris is a player who comes and goes. He can get hot if defenses sag off him, as was the case against Memphis this past Saturday, but Duke should be able to lock him down.

Duke's backcourt combination of Seth Curry and Quinn Cook played extremely well on Sunday in the Blue Devils' win over Creighton. Curry and Cook pry open opportunities in halfcourt situations and can be viewed as more dependable every-game scorers than Appling and Harris, especially Appling. Michigan State's offense can run into extended scoring droughts, and since Duke locked down on Creighton's high-flying offense this past Sunday, the ability of the Blue Devils to hold Michigan State to a low point total (in the mid-50s) should not be in question at this point.

Who Will Win

Michigan State has been a less consistent team than Duke this season, but the Spartans played in a Big Ten Conference that was far more difficult than Duke's Atlantic Coast Conference. The ruggedness of Big Ten basketball is what is likely to come to the fore in this game. Michigan State should win a slugfest by no more than four points.

College Basketball Betting Pick: Michigan State

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