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TOC Staff Picks: Michigan State vs. Duke

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MSU has won two of the last three meetings versus the Blue Devils.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a thrilling win over Davidson in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State will now shift its focus to the Duke Blue Devils. The Spartans and Blue Devils will square off on Sunday evening at 5:15 p.m. Eastern Time in Greenville, South Carolina. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

Duke cruised by Cal State Fullerton in the opening round, collecting a 78-61 victory. Historically, the Blue Devils have had the Spartans’ number, but MSU has won two of the last three meetings.

Mike Krzyzewski could be coaching his final game or he could reach 1,200 career wins and move to the Sweet 16. This is also the most frequent coaching matchup in NCAA Tournament history, as Coach K and Tom Izzo are meeting for the sixth time, while the programs are meeting for the seventh time in the Big Dance.

For more on the prime-time matchup, here’s how our writers think the game will play out:

Ryan O’Bleness

Michigan State 75, Duke 73

This is going to be a tough game against a really good team. I’m not sure if Michigan State will have an answer for Duke’s Paolo Banchero, so expect him to have a big game. However, this feels like a game that the Spartans somehow pull out, even though most fans and pundits may not expect that result.

I could see MSU having balanced scoring in this one, with four guys hitting double-digits. Call it a gut-feeling, but I think Tom Izzo — despite his career struggles against Duke — and Michigan State send Mike Krzyzewski into retirement a little bit earlier than Coach K was anticipating.

Kevin Knight

Duke 79, Michigan State 68

Despite recent success, Izzo’s Achilles’ heel shows itself one more time against the arch nemesis in the final battle, as a superior Blue Devils roster overwhelms another inconsistent offensive performance riddled with turnovers by the Spartans to advance.

Zach Manning

Duke 84, Michigan State 65

I have to agree with Charles Barkley here. I don’t see a scenario in which MSU pulls out a win against Duke. I realize the Blue Devils haven’t been playing their best basketball lately, and the Spartans have started to hit their stride, but talent-wise, Duke is the better team. I think that will show pretty early on. The Blue Devils will pound the ball inside, and MSU will struggle to shoot the ball. If MSU can hit shots early and make Duke panic a little bit, that may be the Spartans’ best chance. I just don’t see it happening.

Verbosedutch

Duke 82, Michigan State 71

Duke, like Davidson, has an extremely efficient offense, which will stress MSU defensively from tip to buzzer. Unlike the Wildcats, the Blue Devils also have a quality defense.

Duke doesn’t commonly turn teams over, which is comforting to a degree for Spartan fans, however the Blue Devils will challenge shots and possess length to shrink lanes and close on shooters.

I see some problematic matchups for MSU and feel less than optimistic in the Spartans’ abilities to stymie Paolo Banchero (a likely top-five pick in the next NBA Draft) or Mark Williams.

With luck, Max Christie and Malik Hall can have bounce back games, but in the end, I predict this is where the Spartans’ up-and-down season comes to a conclusion.

Matt Hoeppner

Michigan State 67, Duke 66

Yes, I know I picked MSU to lose to Davidson. But I also told myself that if the Spartans won I’d pick them to beat Duke and so here we are. The Spartans rise to the challenge and play their best game of the year and send Coach K out to pasture.

Paul Fanson

Michigan State 79, Duke 78

There is absolutely no logical reason for me to pick MSU to win this game, but I am going to do it anyway. The Spartans trail early, but are generally able to keep it within a six-point working margin for much of the game. Then, as the game reaches the under-eight-minute mark, the Spartan defense tightens up, as do the collars on the Duke players. MSU goes on a late run, as the young Blue Devils completely melt down. Gabe Brown hits a corner three-pointer with under a minute to play to give the Spartans the win and to send Coach K into early retirement.

Brad LaPlante

Duke 81, Michigan State 72

Tom Izzo and Coach K are both legendary, but Duke’s a better team and Michigan State isn’t quite there. Nothing else to it.

Matt Sheehan

Duke 76, Michigan State 70

MSU will be playing eight against five basketball in Coach K’s last hurrah. Am I saying the refs are against us? You bet I am.

Paolo Giannandrea

Duke 70, Michigan State 60

After keeping pace through 30 minutes, MSU struggles to contain Duke’s athletes. Matchup problems take this game over, and Duke moves on to the Sweet 16.

David Harns

Michigan State 65, Duke 60