For people placing NCAA Tournament Picks, seeing Duke and Michigan State set to meet in the Final Four isn't too big of a surprise. They have been to this spot many times.
The Game Will Go Over If…
It plays out like it did when the two teams met in the State Farm Champions Classic earlier this season. In that contest, we saw a final score of 81-71 in Duke’s favor and it was also on a neutral site. Both teams shot extremely well from the floor as Michigan State hit 50% of their shots while Duke nailed 54%. On top of that, both teams got a boost from three-point land as the Spartans hit five-of-20 while Duke hit seven-of-14.
The issue here is that if you’re betting the under, you have to believe that Michigan State will throw Duke off of their offensive game. However, right now that involves pounding it inside to Jahlil Okafor, letting him go to work and then creating opportunities on the perimeter once defenses start to collapse on him. Okafor went eight-of-10 from the field in the first meeting with Michigan State, totaling 17 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. There wasn’t anyone that was capable of slowing him down on that night and as good as Michigan State has played defensively, it doesn’t look like there is anyone that can handle him one-on-one in this spot. He’s scored 21, 26 and 28 in three of the four Tournament games so far.
The other factor here to keep in mind is that Duke isn’t a great defensive team themselves. So if Okafor gets cooking and Duke’s defense is just so-so, we’ll see a high-scoring affair here, heading over the NCAA Tournament Odds total.
The Game Will Go Under If…
Michigan State’s defense dominates. Let’s face it: what’s gotten Michigan State to this point so far is their dominant defense. They have stifled every single team in their path and have forced low-scoring, grind-it-out type of contests in each round. They held Georgia to just 33.3% from the field in the first round, they held No. 1 seed Virginia to just 29.8% in Round 2, Oklahoma was held to just 36.4% in the Sweet 16 and Louisville to 35.9% in the Elite Eight.
While many people will point to how the first matchup of the teams played out, the truth is that this is a very different Michigan State team. They had been so-so all season long until the conference tournament hit and then they flipped the switch. One can’t simply look back to a game from mid-November and compare it to this spot in the Final Four and expect it to be the same. A lot of variables have changed.
Although there were 152 points in the first meeting, don’t expect such a free-flowing game this time around. Both teams will want to play a slow pace for their respective reasons. Duke has a lot of freshmen they’re relying on and they’ll want to ease them in. As for Michigan State, they want slow, half-court sets running the entire night. There will be spurts of solid offense in this one but overall, it will lean to the uglier side. That means I like the under as my Final Four NCAA Tournament Picks here.
NCAA Tournament Picks: Under 139.5 at BetOnline