We spend a lot of time discussing how the NCAA Tournament is chock full of upsets, surprises and Cinderella stories, so sometimes it's hard to focus on a game that features two very, very strong teams squaring off for the right to stay alive.
Duke is the No. 6 team in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Michigan State is No. 7. Both teams have absolutely blasted through their first two opponents, with the Spartans demolishing Valparaiso, followed by a Memphis team that went undefeated in conference, while Duke has handily beaten Albany and Doug McDermott's Creighton squad. Duke is explosive on offense -- the No. 5 efficiency in the country, 119.2 points per 100 possessions, with the No. 23 defense -- while Michigan State is lockdown on defense -- the No. 6 efficiency in the country, 86.0 points per 100 possessions, with the No. 22 offense in the country. They're reverse mirror images of good teams.
There's strong matchups 1-through-5: Derrick Nix will probably end up on Mason Plumlee at center, a bullying wider frame against a guy capable of managing a double-double. Freakish athlete Adreian Payne will need to stick with Ryan Kelly all the way out to the three-point line -- the Blue Devils have only lost one game with Kelly in the lineup as he's gone from an average shooter earlier in his career to a marksman shooting 46 percent from deep. Gary Harris and Rasheed Sulaimon are both spark plug freshmen, and Keith Appling's winding way of getting to the hoop contrasts with Seth Curry's pull-up-from-anywhere range.
And there's not too many coaches better at adapting to their players' skillsets than Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski, both of whom are sort of experienced going really far in march.
It's a heavyweight matchup. Here's the info on Friday night's game:
No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (27-8, 13-5 Big Ten) vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (29-5, 14-4)
Date: Friday, March 29
Time: 9:45 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
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