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Tudor: Mich. State's size could spell trouble for Duke

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By Caulton Tudor

 

If seasonal patterns hold, Duke's biggest problem against Michigan State will be size.

When the Blue Devils (29-5) and Spartans (27-8) play Friday night at approximately 9:45 p.m. in an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal game, Michigan State will bring the sort of size that gave Duke trouble against Maryland and Miami in ACC play.

MSU's frontline -- Derrick Nix (6-9, 270, Sr.), Adreian Payne (6-10, 240, Jr.) and Branden Dawson (6-6, 230, So.) -- is among the tallest and heaviest in the country.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner, after a 70-48 loss to the Spartans last weekend, called them "a great team."

"They're big.  They're physical …  It's all but impossible to get anything inside against them on a consistent basis. They just killed us on the boards," Pastner said.

In fact, Coach Tom Izzo's team had a 41-25 rebounding advantage.

Duke, in two losses to Maryland, was out-rebounded 36-26 in one loss and 38-17 in another. Even an 84-64 win over the Terps, the Blue Devils had a 42-31rebounding deficit.

Even with Ryan Kelly (6-11, 230) back from a foot injury to help Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235), the Blue Devils will need to get a lot of help inside.

Dawson will have a distinct size advantage on 6-4 Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon.

Not only that, Izzo has impressive size off the bench in freshmen subs Denzel Valentine (6-5, 220) and Matt Costello (6-9, 245).

The Blue Devils are seeded second behind Louisville in the regional and will have the game's best coach, Mike Krzyzewski, to pull the strings.

For Duke, the game certainly is winnable -- but only if Seth Curry, Kelly and Sulaimon can hit shots from the perimeter while Plumlee steers clear of foul trouble.

SIZING UP THE SPARTANS

F Derrick Nix (6-9, 270, Sr.)

Grinding big man averages 10 ppg., 6.5 rebs. and will be playing in his 139th game.

F Adreian Payne (6-10, 240, Jr.)

Much like Nix, only a year younger and step quicker. Averages 10.4 ppg, 7.5 rebs.

F Branden Dawson (6-6, 230, So.)

Hustle guy who has shot almost 56 percent for his career. Averages 9.1ppg, 6.1 rebs.

G Keith Appling (6-1, 190, Jr.)

Team assist leader but a point guard who often looks to shoot first, pass later. Averages 13.3 ppg, 3.5 rebs. 3.4 asts.

G Gary Harris (6-4, 205, Fr.)

Physical wingman who shoots 41 percent on 3-point attempts. Averages 13.1 ppg, 2.5 rebs.

BENCH

G Travis Trice (6-0, 170, So.)

Quickest Spartan, defensive energy guy. Averages 4.7 ppg, 1.9 asts

S Denzel Valentine (6-5, 220, Fr.)

Prolific rebounder for his size and playing time. Averages 5.0 ppg, 4.4 rebs, 1.9 asts.

F Matt Costello (6-9, 245, Fr.)

Big banger, enforcer with impressive length. Averages 1.5 ppg, 1.3 rebs.

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