East Region Elite Eight Prediction and Free Pick: #1 Duke vs. #2 Michigan State

Date | AuthorAdmir Aljic

Last Updated: 2019-03-30

The No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans will take on the No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils in the East Region Final at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The ACC champions Duke Blue Devils opened as 2-point favorites with the total at 148.5 points and the Big Ten champions Michigan State Spartans at +105 money line odds. They will meet each other for the first time since 2017 when Duke defeated Michigan State 88-81 to record its seventh straight victory over the Spartans. The Blue Devils overcame North Dakota State, UCF, and Virginia Tech to reach the Elite Eight, while the Spartans outlasted Bradley, Minnesota, and LSU in previous rounds.

The Michigan State Spartans had certain problems to eliminate the Bradley Braves in the first round of the East Region, but they dominated the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the LSU Tigers in their last two outings. The Spartans thrashed off LSU 80-63 in the Sweet Sixteen this past Friday, building a 12-point lead in the first period and scoring 40 points in each half. They shot 47.0% from the field including 13 treys out of 32 attempts from deep, while making 22 assists and just seven turnovers. On the other side, they limited the Tigers on just 39.3% shooting from the field and 28.6% from beyond the 3-point line. Freshman Aaron Henry had a big game, dropping 20 points on the Tigers and posting eight rebounds and six assists.

The Spartans are scoring 120.5 points per 100 possessions this season (6th in the country) on 55.8 effective field goal percentage (13th) and 38.2% shooting from beyond the arc (17th). They are allowing 91.3 points in a return (13th in the country) on 43.6 effective field goal percentage (4th). Junior PG Cassius Winston is a key player for the Spartans, and he’s averaging 18.9 points and 7.5 assists per game while making 47.1% of his field goals. Junior forward Nick Ward is tallying 13.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per contest, while senior wing Kenny Goins is adding 8.1 points and 8.9 boards per outing. The head coach Tom Izzo is surely pleased with Aaron Henry’s performance against LSU after yelling at freshman in the opening game versus Bradley.

On the other side, the Duke Blue Devils survived another upset in the previous round, defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies 75-73 following a narrow 77-76 victory over UCF in the second round of the East Region. Duke was trailing by four points to Virginia Tech at halftime, but the Blue Devils took control in the last ten minutes of the game to edge the Hokies down the stretch. The Blue Devils shot excellent 55.4% from the field even though they hit just 6 triples out of 20 attempts from downtown. Still, Duke made 22 assists, and the biggest concern is 17 offensive rebounds allowed to the Hokies.

Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett both put on another impressive performance. Zion had 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field along with six rebounds and three blocks, while Barrett added 18 points and 11 assists. Freshman PG Tre Jones had a big game with 22 points and eight dimes, while Cam Reddish didn’t play due to a knee injury and is doubtful for the clash with the Spartans. Without Reddish, Mike Krzyzewski mostly rotated just six players. Zion Williamson is averaging 26.8 points over his last six outings, while R.J. Barrett is posting 19.2 points in his previous six games.

The Blue Devils are scoring 119.3 points per 100 possessions this term (8th in the country) on 53.6 effective field goal percentage (53rd) and just 30.7% shooting from deep (329th), allowing 89.3 points in a return (7th) on 44.9 effective field goal percentage (9th).

Pick: Michigan State Spartans +2.0

The Blue Devils were pretty lucky in the previous two rounds to beat UCF and Virginia Tech. They are playing on the back of their dynamic duo Zion-Barrett, and Duke could be in trouble if Cam Reddish cannot play on this one. Michigan State was excellent against LSU on both sides of the ball, and it seems like the Spartans are building up their form. Cassius Winston is a talented PG who will know how to drive the team’s offense against Duke, while the Spartans are playing tough defense and doing a great job on the glass. Hereof, I’m backing Michigan State to cover, expecting to see a really close game decided by a few points.

The Spartans are 13-1 straight up and 10-4 ATS in their last 14 outings, while they are 4-6 straight up and 5-5 ATS in their previous ten games when listed as underdogs. Also, the Spartans are 7-6 ATS in their last 13 NCAA Tournament games when listed as dogs. On the other side, Duke is 11-3 straight up and 3-11 ATS in its last 14 games overall, while the Blue Devils are 4-7 ATS in their previous 11 NCAA Tournament contests when listed as favorites. Duke is 11-1 straight up and 5-6-1 ATS in its last 12 encounters with Michigan State.

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