The Duke Blue Devils (2) will take on the Michigan State Spartans (3) at Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis tonight, in what is being deemed a “clash of the titans." Two coaching legends in Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo—who have been stalwarts at their respective programs—will face off for the right to advance to the Elite Eight.
The two head coaches have met seven times before, but just twice in the NCAA tournament (each with a victory). This has spawned what has become known as a friendly rivalry.
According to Michael Marot of the Associated Press, Krzyzewski had the following to say about Izzo:
I consider him a close great friend. There’s nothing about Tom that I don’t think is good. If we lose to them, believe me, I’ll hug him and shake his hand, and he’ll do the same for me.
All eyes will be on the two coaching legends, as the rivalry will be renewed at 10 p.m. tonight.
Now, let’s take a look at a few key things Coach K’s Blue Devils must do to knock off Tom Izzo’s Spartans.
Get Mason Plumlee involved early: This is a no-brainer. Duke’s star forward will have his hands full against Michigan State’s physical front line which includes 6’10, 240-pound Adreian Payne, and 6’9, 270-pound Derrick Nix. Plumlee has to set the tempo early, providing offense, crashing the boards and playing stellar defense in the paint. If he can neutralize the dynamic duo of Payne and Nix down low, the Blue Devils have a solid shot to advance in the tournament.
Contain Keith Appling: The Spartans point guard has been a driving force behind Michigan State’s success. Appling was a finalist for this year’s Bob Cousy award, averaging 13.3 points per game, along with 3.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds. But the 21-year-old junior is battling numerous injuries including one to his right shoulder as well as his left knee.
Coach K: One of the greatest minds in the history of college athletics, Mike Krzyzewski has represented the gold standard of excellence in Duke basketball for over two decades. He owns an eye-popping 956-296 (.764) record and has won four NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships. A true legend in his own right, Duke will be a perennial contender as long Coah K is at the helm.