There may be no trendier pick for an Elite Eight matchup in the 2019 NCAA Tournament than the Duke Blue Devils and Michigan State Spartans. Many were surprised that the Spartans landed as the No. 2 seed in Duke’s region, but in turn, it sets up a potential late-tournament matchup.
In order for Duke and Michigan State to square off for a chance to go to the Final Four, each team would have to win three games. Both teams have tough games along the way, including Mike Krzyzewski’s squad facing either VCU or UCF in the second round and a potential date with Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16.
On the other side, Michigan State will face a major second-round test in either Louisville or Minnesota followed by possibly facing a talented LSU squad after that. Both the Blue Devils and Spartans are still popular picks to make the run, and while filling out brackets, choosing between the two could be tough.
Let’s jump in and look at the prediction for which of the two will make the run to the Final Four and who to pick in your bracket for that matchup.
Duke vs. Michigan State Potential Elite Eight Matchup
There’s nothing easy about making this call, as Duke went 29-5 this season while Michigan State posted a 28-6 record. Tom Izzo’s squad likely should have landed outside of the Blue Devils’ bracket, but that’s an argument for another day. Although the Spartans suffered some head-scratching losses, they reeled off five-straight wins to end the season, four of which came against tournament teams.
Beyond that, Michigan State defeated fellow No. 2 seed Michigan twice, including once in the Big Ten title game. They boast an impressive all-around group including Cassius Winston who averages 18.9 points and 7.6 assists and Nick Ward, who’s posted marks of 14.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per.
The big issue here is that Duke has looked nearly unbeatable when Zion Williamson is healthy. The freshman phenom has averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 2.1 assists and 1.8 blocks per game this season. Of the team’s five losses, only two of them were with him in the lineup. One came against another top seed in Gonzaga with the second loss vs. Syracuse in a game where Tre Jones left early due to injury.
Should Duke or Michigan State Be Your Final Four Pick?
As much as people surely want to pick against the Blue Devils, that’s a scary thing to do. They’ve posted some big wins this season including defeating Syracuse, North Carolina and Florida State over three-straight days to win the ACC tournament. Although what Michigan State did in the Big Ten tournament was impressive, I’m not sure they’ll have an answer for Williamson and fellow star RJ Barrett.
Beyond that, Duke boasts an exceptional defender in point guard Tre Jones who would make life tough for Winston. I’d love to see this matchup, but personally, I think it’s too tough of a spot for the Spartans to overcome. I’ll roll with Coach K’s squad to advance to the Final Four if this matchup pans out.
Pick: Duke over Michigan State to make Final Four