Seth Curry's 29 points and three-point shooting pushed Duke past Michigan State and toward a date with No. 1 seed Louisville.(David E. Klutho/SI)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Steven Izzo went with his head, not his heart. His head was right. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's 13-year-old son picked Duke to beat the Spartans in the Sweet 16 of his bracket, after his father told him to choose with his brain and "don't worry about mom or dad."
That pick came true at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday, where the No. 2-seeded Blue Devils beat No. 3-seeded Michigan State 71-61, continuing a trend that may have swayed the younger Izzo: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is now 7-1 all-time against Izzo, who rarely gets outcoached in the NCAA tournament. Coach K's teams seem to trouble the Spartans like no other program does.
In the Sweet 16, State's primary issue was it could not stick to Seth Curry. Duke's senior shooting guard, who runs off an endless maze of screens, went off for 29 points on 8-of-17 shooting, the majority of them coming against highly touted freshman Gary Harris. Harris is viewed as a possible top-20 pick in the next NBA Draft should he declare, while Curry is projected to go undrafted. But here the veteran gave the rookie -- who went just 2-of-11 for six points -- a thorough schooling.
Curry went 6-of-9 from long range while the rest of the Blue Devils shot just 1-of-9 on threes, and he turned the ball over just once in 37 minutes. (He should have finished with 31 points, too; in the first half, the refs failed to call an obvious goaltend when Adreian Payne erased one of his runners.)
Curry scored his 20th point with 17:55 left in the second half, and looked remarkably fresh for a player who has been battling leg injuries all season and barely participates in practice. He's proven to play much better when he has more than four days rest. Here, five days after the Blue Devils' Round-of-32 win over Creighton, he was lights-out while his teammates struggled to hit jumpers.
Duke forward Ryan Kelly's long-range slump since his 36-point explosion against Miami on March 2 continued. The lanky "stretch four" was 0-of-4 from deep, and is just 2-of-21 on treys post-Miami. But he managed to trigger a key stretch for the Blue Devils in the second half, finishing an old-fashioned three-point play with 9:14 left, and then blocking Spartans big man Derrick Nix on the ensuing defensive possession. Duke converted that block into a fastbreak layup by freshman Rasheed Sulaimon to go up 56-46. That would be their eventual winning margin.
This sets up a marquee Elite Eight matchup between Duke, the strongest two-seed in the bracket, and Louisville, the last No. 1 seed remaining. The best two teams left in the dance may very well be meeting one step before the Final Four.