Very few resumes can rival that of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. Combined, they’ve netted five national championships, four belonging to Krzyzewski, and 17 trips to the Final Four with 132 victories in the NCAA Tournament.
But when it comes to the tournament, Izzo’s Spartans and Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils have only met three times during their tenures, with Duke taking two victories.
Izzo and Michigan State will have a chance to even up the series in Saturday night’s national semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Removing each program’s overall success in years past, Duke and Michigan State have had starkly different seasons.
The No. 1 Blue Devils rebounded from an unfathomable second-round exit in last year’s tournament, and largely coasted through the regular season for one of the top seeds and blasted opponents by an average winning margin of 19 points in four games. They reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings, and boast several high-profile underclassmen who figure to be top picks in the NBA Draft this summer.
The No. 7 Spartans are the lowest seeded team left in the tournament, and haven’t tackled opponents the same as Duke. Michigan State needed an extra period to eliminate Louisville in the regional final last weekend, and won its first three games by average of 5.6 points. Michigan State lost 11 times during the regular season, including a difficult home letdown to a Minnesota squad that finished 6-12 in the Big Ten. The highest national ranking the Spartans achieved this season was No. 18., and their key freshman contributors average roughly 11 minutes a game off the bench.
Nevertheless, the Spartans and Izzo have once again reminded the nation why they are a force to be reckoned with once the tournament rolls around, and despite Duke entering the game as 5.5-point favorites, the matchup figures to go down to the wire.
Here are seven facts fans on both sides should know before the game tips off Saturday night.
Amazing In The Tournament, But Not Against Krzyzewski
Izzo owns a 46-16 all-time record in the tournament, all with the Spartans since he took over the program in 1995. However, combining the regular season and tournament, Krzyzewski is 8-1 all-time against Izzo, including the 81-71 victory back on Nov. 18 that took place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
It might be comforting to Michigan State fans that Izzo’s sole victory over a Krzyzewski-coached squad came in the tournament. In 2005, No. 5-seeded Michigan State defeated No.1-seeded Duke in the Sweet 16, 78-68.
Top Talent On The Floor
During nearly 35-year run at Duke, Krzyzewski has sent 49 players to the NBA (18 currently playing in the league), and this year he could have his third No. 1 overall pick. Freshman big man Jahlil Okafor, who was named a first-team All-American Monday, could be the first player taken in June’s NBA Draft. Okafor, along with fellow freshman forward Justise Winslow and point guard Tyus Jones, are almost certain to be drafted in the first round.
Izzo has had his fair share of players go on to the pros as well. Twenty Izzo players have gone on to the NBA, with six currently in the league. This season Michigan State doesn’t figure to have any players in the first round or lottery, but senior guards Branden Dawson and Travis Trice could play their way into a first round selection and excel like Draymond Green is currently doing for the Golden State Warriors.
Duke actually holds a 3-1 all-time mark against Michigan State, with only one other game played between the two schools before both Izzo and Krzyzewski were head coaches. Back in 1994, Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to an 85-74 victory in the second round of the tournament, eventually reaching the Final for the seventh time in nine seasons before falling to champion Arkansas in the national semifinal.
Seeding’s Important, But Not Always
As a No. 7 seed, the Spartans are hoping for some of the magic that helped No. 7 Connecticut win the title last season. The Huskies became the second-lowest seeded team to win the tournament, just behind No. 8 Villanova way back in 1985.
In three out of four championship seasons, Duke has been a No. 1 seed. The only time the Blue Devils were lower was 1991, when as a No. 2 seed they took down Kansas for the title, the second of three straight trips to the championship game.
Learning From A Loss
Both Izzo and Krzyzewski will likely review the Nov. 18 meeting in Indianapolis, with Duke earning a 10-point victory. The Spartans got as close as 51-48 with less than 14 remaining, before Duke nixed any threat of a comeback.
Typically when a team connects on 50 percent of their field goal attempts, and out-rebounds an opponent 35-25, including 13 offensive boards to five, a victory is almost a lock. Unfortunately for the Spartans it didn’t playout so well against Duke in the second game of the regular season.
Instead, the Spartans were plagued by a 5-for-20 night from three-point range, and committed 13 turnovers. For the season Michigan State has shot far better from deep, hitting 38.6 percent of three-point attempts. And the Spartans have also defended the three well, holding opponents to a 31.6-percent success rate.
Duke would knock down seven of their 14 three-pointers in the victory, up vastly from its 39.1 percent throughout the regular season. They would also draw 26 trips to the free throw line (compared to 10 for the Spartans), and hit 20 of them.
Michigan State will no doubt try to limit the Blue Devils from deep, and be more cautious of fouls.