1) Post defense game-plan - This was pretty brilliant. Basically the devils used a "soft" double team. When either Nix or Payne got the ball in the post, the Duke big guarding them would turn them either right or left and communicate this to the other Duke big, who would only commit fully to the double team once Nix or Payne had turned. In other words, the double team would only take place once the MSU player had committed to an offensive move, thereby preventing easy kickouts ( which Nix does very well). This strategy held Nix to 3-10 ( a guy who shoots 51% on the year) and Payne to the same ( he shoots 55% on the year). Ryan Kelly had four help-side blocks. His length , positioning and communication on defense can not possibly be overstated.
2) Tyler Thornton - I thought he was the player of the game in the Creighton game, and, were it not for, uh, that guy that scored 29 points last night, he would have been my player of the game in this one too. His perimeter man-to-man has been amazing and completely disruptive to opposing offenses. He also did a fantastic job stepping in for the seemingly overwhelmed Quinn Cook and running Duke's offense ( only 1 turnover in 26 minutes).
3) Rebounding - In my game preview conversation with The Only Colors' Chris Vannini, I mentioned that the story of the game would likely be told in terms of which team could be more competitive in their opponent's field of expertise ; Second Chance Points/ Offensive rebounding ( Sparty's metier) or 3-point shooting ( Duke's). Well, Second chance points were 8-4 in favor of Michigan State ( with offensive rebounds the same) while Duke outscored MSU 21-9 from beyond the arc ( thanks to Steph Curry's brother). Ballgame.
Looking forward to tomorrow's game I would say 2 things have to change significantly in order for Duke to advance. First, someone besides #3 is going to have to hit from outside. Other than Rasheed's game against Creighton, the other Duke shooters have been truly abysmal ( including Ryan's personal 0-19 streak from 3). Second, Quinn Cook has to shake off what was easily his worst game of the year and probably have one of his better games of the year. Louisville's defensive pressure will necessitate big and productive minutes from him. It's also easy to imagine Tyler getting into foul trouble against that dynamic duo of Louisville guards.