In the NCAA East Regional final, Tom Izzo and #2 Michigan State defeated #1 Duke 68-67 to advance to the Final Four.
Izzo won the battle of wits against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Heading into the Elite Eight battle, Izzo was 1-4 against Coach K in March Madness games. Izzo denied Coach K a 13th trip to the Final Four, which would have set the NCAA record.
Zion Williamson, who is projected as the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft, led all scorers with 24 points and 14 rebounds. RJ Barrett added 21 points, but he missed a couple of crucial shots down the stretch for Duke. Cam Reddish, who missed the Elite 8 game with a sore knee, came off the bench to score 8 points in 37 minutes of action. Michigan State’s defense shut down the rest of Duke in the second half and squeezed out a one-point victory.
Michigan State previously made the Final Four in 2015. Izzo guided the Spartans to his eighth Final Four appearance since taking over as head coach in 1999. Under Izzo, Michigan State won one national championship in 2000. They have one other title back in 1979 when Magic Johnson led the Spartans to a victory over Larry Bird and Indiana State.
The greatest players elevate their performance for a big game. Cassius Winston stepped up, but that’s what the Big Ten Player of the Year had been doing all season. Winston led Michigan State in scoring with 20 points. He also brought defensive intensity on both ends of the court. He also added 10 assists.
“Winston was the difference maker,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He was either scoring or assisting. He’s the best guard we’ve played against.”
“I was locked in,” Winston said. “I wanted to do everything I could for my team to get us to that point. We’ve been working way too hard to stop now.”
Forward Xavier Tillman added 19 points and 9 rebounds. He shot an efficient 8-for-12 from the field.
Michigan State shot only six free throws all game. The officials swallowed the whistles and didn’t call many fouls on Duke.
Winston saw his NBA draft stock elevate the deeper Michigan State went into the tournament. After his top-notch game against future NBA stars like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, Winston looked like the best player on the court.
Big-Time Game, Big Ten vs. ACC
Many pundits and fans felt the Elite 8 matchup between Duke and Michigan State was the real championship with the two best teams in the country meeting each other. The winner would go on to the Final Four knowing that they would be facing inferior opponents in the next round.
“Everybody that beats Duke is ready to put that on the wall because that’s the program that Krzyzewski built,” said Tom Izzo. “I do think we beat arguably the best team in the country, but there’s another game coming up.”
For most of the season, oddsmakers listed Duke as the favorite to win March Madness this season. Heading into the tournament, Duke was the favorite. The Blue Devils continued to be the team to beat heading into the Sweet 16.
With 16 teams remaining, you could bet Michigan State at 10/1 odds to win the national championship. According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, you can find Michigan State at 2/1 odds to win the Final Four.