Duke Basketball: What Blue Devils Must Do to Advance to Elite 8

Tyler PosloskyContributor IIIMarch 28, 2013

Duke's Mason Plumlee dunks the ball against Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 22.
Duke's Mason Plumlee dunks the ball against Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 22.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Duke took care of Albany and depleted Creighton to advance to the Sweet 16.

It’s next opponent is an all-too familiar one—Michigan State.

The Spartans represent neither an inferior opponent nor one to be toyed with like those of Duke’s most recent past. Rather, they represent a rugged and stingy group capable of wreaking havoc on the Blue Devils.

Following Duke’s 16-point victory over Creighton, senior forward Mason Plumlee was asked about his thoughts concerning Michigan State.

“I know they’re good,” Plumlee told Laura Keeley, of the Charlotte Observer.

Plumlee hit the nail right on the head.

Six of Michigan State’s eight losses this season came at the hands of teams still in the tournament.

For Duke, its work is cut out.

Plumlee, who sunk 9-of-11 field goals en route to a 23-point performance against Albany, converted just 4-of-7 against Creighton. Duke can’t afford to have another mediocre effort from Plumlee, who averages over 17 points per contest.

The Spartans represent an assortment of potential problems for the Blue Devils—concerns that must be addressed.

The most important is freshman guard Gary Harris, who has gone a combined 10-for-20 from the field, and 6-for-12 from beyond the arc in wins over Valparaiso and Memphis, respectively.

Harris is a tremendous athlete. He’s made nearly 47 percent of his shots, and nearly 42 percent of his three-point attempts.

If the Blue Devils don’t contain Harris, the game could slip away at the blink of an eye.

Duke must force turnovers, and bunches of them. Michigan State committed 17 and 18 turnovers respectively in its first two tournament games. That’s a remarkably high statistic compared to just 18 combined turnovers by its opponents.

Moreover, Michigan State is a member of the best conference in basketball this season: the Big Ten. Four teams are still alive and in the hunt for the national championship: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The Spartans had the pleasure of squaring off twice with the Hoosiers and Wolverines and three times with the Buckeyes.

No team scares the Spartans.

However, if the Blue Devils maximize their opportunities and make the Spartans pay for every mistake, then it’ll be quite a showdown inside Lucas Oil Stadium Friday night.