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Final Four Preview: Michigan State vs. Duke
By Mike Jasko

Saturday night's first National Semifinal will be the Duke Blue Devils facing off against the Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State is the only non-1-Seed to make this year's Final Four. They earned their 8th Final Four berth by outlasting a physical Louisville team, defeating them in overtime 76-70 last weekend.

Duke has had perhaps the most comfortable ride to the Final Four, winning only one game by single digits, a 6-point win over Utah in the Sweet Sixteen. They advanced to the Final Four by beating 2nd-seeded Gonzaga 66-52 in the Elite Eight. Here's a look at how these two team's stack up statically:

 

Duke

Michigan State

Points Per Game

80.6

71.9

Team Field Goal %

50.2

47.1

Points Allowed Per Game

64.3

63.2

Field Goal % Against

42.3

39.3

Assists Per Game

15.5

17.1

Duke boasts one of the best offenses in college basketball, top five in both scoring and offensive efficiency. Jahlil Okafor, their freshman leading scorer, experienced somewhat of a mini-slump during last weekend's games. After scoring 21 and 26 points in the first two rounds on over 75 percent shooting, Okafor went 7-16 against Utah and Gonzaga, scoring just 15 points over those two games. It will be interesting to see if the Freshman can raise his game against the solid defensive team of Michigan State.

Rather than Okafor, Duke relied on their two other sensational freshman to carry the load for them in the regional semi-finals and finals. 6'6'' swingman Justice Winslow came up big for Duke last weekend, scoring 21 points against Utah and 16 points against Gonzaga. In those games, Winslow shot 5-for-8 from behind the arc, including a late-three against Gonzaga that put the game out of reach. Also making major contributions last weekend for the Blue Devils was freshman point guard Tyus Jones. He scored 15 points in each game, and had 6 assists Sunday against Gonzaga.

Michigan State certainly doesn't have the star-power to compete with Duke, but they might have enough togetherness and toughness to hang with them. Tom Izzo is known for getting the most out of his players, and his team's play during this tournament has been a testament to that. Senior Travis Trice has played great for the Spartans, with games of 23 and 24 points so far in the tournament, and he scored 17 in Michigan State's overtime triumph over Louisville in the Elite Eight.

Junior Denzel Valentine averaged under 10 PPG during the regular season, but has scored 15 points or more in 3 out of 4 tournament games for the Spartans. Michigan State was one of the better passing teams in the nation this season, and they currently rank 2nd in Division 1 in assists. They will need to continue to play complete team basketball if they expect to beat Duke and their tremendous trio of Freshman.

Of course Michigan State is capable of pulling off the upset, but I'm starting to see the stars align for a Duke-Kentucky Final and I see Duke getting past Michigan State.

@RowTwelve

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