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Michigan State vs. Duke Men’s Basketball Preview: Top-10 Matchup in Cameron Indoor

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Michigan State looks to take down the Blue Devils in the heavy weight fight.

North Carolina v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

GAME INFO

Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham North Carolina

When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020

TV: ESPN

THE OPPONENT

DUKE BLUE DEVILS

DEPTH CHART

PG Jordan Goldwire (SR, 6-2, 184), Jeremy Roach (FR, 6-1, 175)

SG Joey Baker (JR, 6-6, 201), DJ Steward (FR, 6-2, 163)

SF Wendell Moore Jr (SO, 6-5, 216)

PF Jalen Johnson (FR, 6-9, 220), Jaemyn Brakefield (FR, 6-8, 216), Henry Coleman III (FR, 6-7, 229)

C Matthew Hurt (SO, 6-9, 235), Mark Williams (FR, 7-0, 243), Patrick Tape (GR, 6-9, 233)

LAST SEASON

The Duke Blue Devils ended the 2019-20 season with a 25-6 record (15-5 in ACC play). Duke finished second in the ACC behind Florida State, who finished with a 16-4 record. The postseason was cancelled before the Blue Devils got a chance to play in the ACC Tournament against North Carolina State. Duke was one of the best teams at scoring inside the three-point line. The Blue Devils finished second in the country with 82.5 points per game and 22.7 made buckets from two-point range per game. Freshman, Vernon Carey, and sophomore, Tre Jones, both finished on Consensus All-America teams, second and third respectively. Both Carey and Tre Jones, along with teammate Cassius Stanley, were drafted into the NBA during the second round of the 2020 draft.

THIS SEASON

The Blue Devils have retooled with the third best recruiting class in the country. They added five top-50 recruits to their rotation. Three of those prospects, Jeremy Roach, Mark Williams, and DJ Steward were McDonald’s All-Americans. Duke comes into this game ranked sixth in AP Polls. Roach and Steward make up their reserve back court. In his first game, Steward filled up the box score with 24 points and nine rebounds. Roach did not have a huge impact on offense, but provided some solid perimeter defense. Mark Williams showed some value as a vertical floor spacer, but did so in extremely limited playing time. In the starting lineup, newcomer Jalen Johnson joins four returners. Johnson put on a clinic on both ends of the floor against Coppin State. His front court mates Wendell Moore Jr. and Matthew Hurt both had solid games but were not exceptional. Hurt showed that he prepared to play the stretch big role as he took five threes. Both Moore and Hurt faced foul trouble in the game as they both finished with four personal fouls. Coppin State also tormented Hurt in isolation possessions. The backcourt tandem of Jordan Goldwire and Joey Baker played rather poorly. They need to start by shooting better. They combined to shoot two of nine from the field and zero for six from three. It appears that both fit the role of a game manager with some veteran experience. Steward could easily take one of their starting spots depending on the timeline that Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) has in mind.

THE STAR(S)

Jalen Johnson is the number one player on both ends of the floor for the Blue Devils. He was the 13th ranked recruit in the 2020 high school class, as ranked by ESPN. In their first game of the season he put up 19 points on eight for eight shooting from the field. He also secured a double double with 19 rebounds; four of those coming on the offensive glass. He displayed some serious defensive potential as both an off-ball rim protector against Coppin State as he started the game with a monster block at the rim in rotation. He also looked comfortable guarding primary creators in isolations and in pick and roll actions. On the offensive end of the floor, he does not have a ton of range on his jumper, but looks extremely comfortable in the mid post. He can also attack the rim and create contact.

Photo by Courtesy of Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics | The Chronicle

After seeing DJ Steward fill up the box score with his volume scoring, there is another offensive star in Durham. He finished their first game with 24 points on 18 shots, with nine of those coming from three-point range. He showed value as a three-level scorer. He can fit in both on-ball or off-ball within the Duke offense. He excels at sinking to the corners and then flashing or cutting backdoor for an easy layup. On those cuts, he does a good job of making tough shots when they show themselves. He has solid body control and can get off awkward looks. He does not show a ton of potential as a facilitator, but that is not necessarily required of him as the Duke roster has a few game managers and primary facilitators available.

THE SCHEME

Duke runs a motion offense that is focused on perimeter players driving to the interior. Due to this style of play, the guards have to create their own shot. That resulted in a lot of turnovers against Coppin State. They coughed up the ball 22 times compared to Eagles’ eight turnovers. Their base set is a three out, two in offense. That has adjusted some without a traditional big in the lineup. They have played some possessions in a four out, one in base set. Johnson, being the more perimeter-oriented interior player, has free rein to roam inside the three point line. He gets his looks in mid post touches and cuts off the baseline. In secondary transition sets, they like to go to quick hitters in the post. The Blue Devils are focused on attacking the rim. They shot 79.2 percent at the rim against Coppin State. Through two games, Michigan State has allowed opponents to shoot 59 percent at the rim, which is not great at the collegiate level. Rim attempts are a priority for Duke, as 37.5 percent of their shots came at the rim in the first game of the season.

THE COACH

The legendary Mike Krzyzewski is back for his 41st season as the head coach for the Blue Devils. He comes into this game with a 1085-291 record at Duke. He has won five national titles, with the most recent coming in 2015. Coach K has led Duke to 49 percent of their wins in program history. He is currently looking for his 14th straight 25-win season and 25th straight tournament appearance. To go along with his many accolades, he has led the charge with signing one and done prospects. After two of his recruits from the 2019 class followed this path, six of his current freshmen have seen their names floating around on NBA Draft blogs. This shows the strength of Coach K’s recruiting pitch to top prospects. There has been some doubt about his ability to win big games, and those doubts could rise again if the Spartans can get the win in Cameron Indoor.

North Dakota State v Duke Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

THE STATE OF STATE

The Spartans are coming into this game ranked at eighth best team in the country according to the AP Polls. Michigan State is coming off of an impressive win against Notre Dame that was decided by a 26-0 run. The Spartan offense was extremely well rounded as Aaron Henry led the team with 14 points. Henry, Joey Hauser, and Rocket Watts all finished in double digits. Hauser played much better in his second game. He added a ton of value in high low actions, both roaming the baseline and creating shots for others from the free throw line. Watts brought some energy off the bench. He took control of the offense and sped up the offensive tempo. Shooting will be the swing skill for this Michigan State team. Only four players have made multiple threes through their first two games. This iteration of the Spartans has the potential to be Coach Tom Izzo’s best defensive team to date. The only weak points on that end of the floor are their size on the interior and Foster Loyer’s ability to guard the pick and roll. Neither should be a factor in this game as the Blue Devils also lack size outside of Mark Williams, who comes off the bench. They also do not run much pick and roll in their offense. Loyer can hold his own guarding in point of attack settings.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Michigan at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

THE PREDICTION

This contest will come down to the wire. The keys to the game will be Michigan State’s interior defense and their ability to hit perimeter shots with consistency. If Hauser has a strong offensive performance, he could help open up a double digit lead. Duke will find some success in attacking the rim, but in the end Michigan State will leave Durham with a four-point win.