Sunday's Michigan State-Duke Round of 32 matchup means it's Tom Izzo vs. Coach K for one last time. This will be the sixth meeting between the legendary head coaches in the NCAA Tournament, with Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils holding a 4-1 edge of Izzo's Spartans. The last such meeting was in 2019 when Michigan State edged Duke 68-67 in the Elite Eight. The only other second-round matchup was in 1994 when the Blue Devils won 85-74.
Duke (29-6) is coming off a workmanlike 78-61 victory over No. 15 Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. The Blue Devils had five double-digit scorers led by Paolo Banchero's 17 and Mark Williams' 15 points. The team out-rebounded the Titans 38-30 and shot 58.3 percent from inside the 3-point line. Duke has won 10 of its last 12 games as this team tries to bring Coach K a title in his final season as head coach.
Michigan State (23-12) overcame a five-point deficit with less than seven minutes to play and then held off No. 10 Davidson late for a 74-73 win. Joey Hauser led the way for the Spartans with a career-high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field (also 5-for-6 from the foul line). A.J. Hoggard (14 points) and Gabe Brown (12) also finished in double digits. Michigan State committed just seven turnovers and shot nearly 64 percent on attempts inside of the arc (7-for-26, 26.9 percent behind it).
West Region: No 7 Michigan State Spartans (23-12) vs. No 2. Duke Blue Devils (29-6)
Time: Sunday, March 20 at 5:15 p.m. ET
Where: Bon Secours Wellness Arena (Greenville, S.C.)
Spread: Duke -6.5
Keys for Michigan State
The Spartans have been an inconsistent team, losing seven of their last 10 games in the regular season but then won their first two games in the Big Ten Tournament before falling to Purdue (75-70) in the semifinals. Michigan State gets it done with balance as Gabe Brown (11.4 ppg) is the only double-digit scorer with six others averaging seven points or more per contest. The Spartans also have three guys who average 4.7 or more rebounds per game, led by Marcus Bingham Jr.'s 6.1, while guards A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker combine for more than nine assists per contest.
Michigan State is 22nd in 3-point shooting and 81st from the free-throw line, so offense (72.1 ppg) shouldn't be a problem. The interesting thing is that the Spartans don't take a ton of 3-pointers as less than 30 percent of their scoring comes from those shots. Defensively, they are top 120 in all of the major categories except turnover percentage. Duke can be a little reckless with the basketball occasionally, but Sparty is 330th in turnover percentage so they may not be able to take advantage.
Keys for Duke
Did the victory over Cal State Fullerton loosen these Blue Devils up a little bit? At times during the regular season, it seemed like this Duke team was cracking under the extra pressure of the Coach K farewell tour. Once again, there's going to be another large spotlight on them and an expectation to perform as they take on Izzo and Michigan State. The Blue Devils have wins over Gonzaga and Kentucky, among other quality teams, but the non-conference ones came back in November.
Offensively, the numbers are strong all over for Duke as they are 11th in 2-point field-goal percentage and 30th on 3-pointers. The numbers also say that the Blue Devils' defense is very strong, but they've given up 70 points or more in seven of their last 10 games. Freshman Paolo Banchero (17.0 ppg) leads five Duke players who all average double digits in scoring. He's also the team's leading rebounder (7.9 per game) while Wendell Moore Jr. (13.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) averages nearly five assists per contest to go with his other numbers.
Of course, this game gets the CBS spotlight because the headlines write themselves. The biggest questions are Duke's defense and Michigan State's offense. The Blue Devils can play lockdown defense while the Spartans have shown flashes of offensive brilliance, but will they do it on Sunday? The better team moves on this one and America gets more Coach K stories as his team punches their ticket to the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Duke 77, Michigan State 70
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.