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Two Titanic Midwest Matches Highlight Saturday Slate of Games

This weekend, there are two massive games occurring on Saturday in the Midwest Region. The highlight, and perhaps the highlight of the whole tournament, is the Saturday match between Michigan State and Duke. They’re two traditional programs that are defined by their success (Spartans coach Tom Izzo has reached seven Final Fours, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has won four national titles) and national spotlight. However, this tournament has been completely defined by craziness thus far, and it doesn’t seem likely to end now.

“The way it’s changed since 2000 is, a high seed used to get you out of the first weekend,” Izzo said. “Now it barely gets you out of the first game, as we’re all seeing.”

Here are some invaluable stats about Michigan State’s performance this season compared to Duke’s, courtesy of the fantastic Bleacher Report feature StatSmack:

  • Michigan State has a better scoring defense (59.4 allowed per game vs. 66.6 allowed per game) than Duke this season.
  • Last year the Big Ten had a stronger schedule compared to the ACC (No. 1 vs. No. 5).
  • Last year the Big Ten had a better conference RPI than the ACC (No. 1 vs. No. 6).
  • The Big Ten has had four more Sweet Sixteen teams than the ACC over the past 5 years.
  • The Michigan State steals leader (Branden Dawson, 50 steals) has more steals than the Duke steals leader (Quinn Cook, 47 steals).
  • The Big Ten performed much better in non-conference close games than the ACC (70.8 percent vs. 45.5 percent).
  • Michigan State has more Final Four appearances over the last 10 years than Duke (three vs. two).
  • Michigan State is bigger. The average weight of the top 8 players on Michigan State is 214 lbs compared to 204 lbs for Duke.
  • Michigan State allows fewer rebounds (30.6 allowed per game vs. 34.9 allowed per game) than Duke this season.

Duke might be narrowly better than Michigan State, but this game will absolutely come down to the final possession; a score somewhere in the neighborhood of 66-64 seems likely. I love Michigan State to cover the spread and squeak by with a very narrow victory.

Elsewhere in the region, the No. 12-seeded Oregon Ducks are taking on the No. 1-overall seeded Louisville Cardinals. The Ducks have been one of the biggest surprises of the college basketball world this season, winning both the Pac-12 regular season title and the conference championship. However, Louisville, to put it mildly, is dominant. Their pressure defense has blown the doors off teams all season, and could give an Oregon team that plays fast and loose with the ball nightmares.

Here are some Oregon Ducks trends to consider, courtesy of Bleacher Report’s StatSmack:

  • Oregon has blown out Louisville by 20 points or more on three occasions since 2000.
  • Over the past 10 years, Oregon has had more players drafted by the NBA than Louisville (five vs. four).
  • The top-ranking players between the two conferences for points, field goals made, and free throws made are in the Pac-12.
  • The worst team in the Pac-12 has a higher RPI than the worst team in the Big East (No. 183 vs. No. 203).
  • Arsalan Kazemi is ranked 39th nationally in rebounds and 36th nationally in steals.
  • The Oregon rebounding leader (Arsalan Kazemi, 278 rebounds) has more rebounds than the Louisville rebounding leader (Gorgui Dieng, 242 rebounds).
  • The Pac-12 has had two more NBA Draft picks than the Big East over the past 5 years.
  • Oregon embarrassed Louisville by 27 points the last time they played (Nov 24, 2001).

Still, despite the Ducks’ resounding victories thus far in the tournament, I think Louisville wins, and wins comfortably. They’re simply too fast and too nimble defensively for this Ducks squad. Take the Cardinals to win big.

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