No subplot needed for this Elite Eight
The Elite Eight contest between Duke and Michigan State provide the plot in itself.
This college basketball season has been the coronation of Duke’s Zion Williamson.
Everyone watched him with interest being that he is likely the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft this summer. He captivated everyone’s attention with his dunks, blocks and size. He sparked a debate whether or not he should resume playing after he injured his knee when his shoe blew out in the first minute of play against North Carolina on Feb. 20. In fact, he brought a tired talking point about whether or not the NCAA should pay student-athletes and whether or not the NBA should go back to letting high schoolers enter the league.
Fortunately for us, Williamson ignored the yokels encouraging him to not play in the tournament. College basketball is better for it that he did the right thing. He shined in the three tournament games Duke has played. One can make a case that Duke does not survive and advance without him.
No one wants to see it end now. The happy ending would be him cutting the net in Minneapolis after Duke wins the championship game next Monday night.
But the Michigan State Spartans stand in the way of Williamson’s destiny.
They could be the team that beats Duke in the NCAA tournament East Region final on Sunday afternoon. They have a good shot with their size, bench and shooting. Michigan State features four big men that can counteract Williamson in Aaron Henry, Xavier Tillman, Nick Ward and Gabe Brown. They looked impressive against Bradley, Minnesota and LSU so far in the tournament.
Duke understands they have been fortunate, and they realize they can’t get by with lady luck forever. They can’t go ahead thinking third time will be a charm where they can survive and advance.
This has everything one would expect out of an Elite Eight game. Whoever wins this contest earned the right to play in Minneapolis for the Final Four on Saturday. It’s going to be a heavyweight fight between a Duke team that likes to play full-court, fun-and-gun transition against the Spartans’ disciplined, half-court control game.
Michigan State should feel great about its chances to win today. They have been great all season, and they are emboldened with confidence after dispatching Minnesota and LSU. They are peaking at the right time. This is by far Izzo’s best team in quite some time, and the best chance to beat Duke. They know it, too.
If Michigan State can’t beat Duke now with this team, when will they?
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo desperately want this game more than anyone. It can’t be fun for him hearing that he is 1-11 against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, and he is tired of losing recruits such as Jabari Parker and Williamson to him. A win against Duke and Coach K goes a long way for him and his program. It could be a program-changer altogether when it comes to being in the top.
The Duke Blue Devils feel they can be better than they have showed, so they have much to prove. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will coax them to fix up their deficiencies and play better. This is their hope, and this is what Michigan State should fear.
Duke could use a great performance since it won’t get any easier. Texas Tech and Virginia provide a challenge for the Blue Devils if they advance Saturday. This game symbolizes a refresher how to play at its best from a Duke standpoint.
Outside of East Lansing and Michigan State, no one wants to see Williamson’s tenure at Duke end. Only this Duke star can make the annoying Blue Devils likeable. That’s the beauty of his and his game.
But if Michigan State wins, these same folks likely will celebrate because Duke is a team they hate, so there’s satisfaction that comes from it.
Yes, so much at stake for everyone involved, including the Duke haters.
CBS and NCAA knew better to put this game late.
It has everything a basketball purist needs. It does not take much to find a subplot. In fact, there’s no reason to.
The game provides the plot and more. There’s going to be happiness and sadness. One game makes the difference between a long summer and a season to keep going.
May the best team win.