Here are five things we learned from Duke's 84-79 win over Michigan State on Wednesday night:
1. Kyrie Irving is the best freshman Mike Krzyzewski has ever coached. Notice I didn't say the best player. (Though I wouldn't rule that out, either.) But as good as Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Shane Battier and J.J. Redick turned out to be, none of them could touch this kid right out of the gate. Irving was nothing short of sensational Wednesday night, playing like a "points" guard as much as a point guard. He scored a career-high 31 to go along with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. He was also 13-for-16 from the foul line, bringing him to 88 percent for the season. That is truly unfair.
Enjoy him while you have him, Duke fans, because it says here that Irving will be the number one pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
2. Turnovers are too much a part of Michigan State's culture. I wrote in my preview of this game that the magic number for Michigan State in the turnovers department was 12. They had that many in the first half. I raised that question because the Spartans have had a hard time holding on to the ball for three years now, especially in big games. Remember when they threw the ball all over the gym against North Carolina in the 2009 NCAA final? They were just as bad against Duke, finishing with 20. The Blue Devils are a really good defensive team, but you don't commit 20 turnovers without giving the defense a lot of help. The Spartans were way too generous Wednesday night to beat a good team on its home floor.
3. Kyle Singler is officially in a shooting slump. Lost in the excitement of the win and Irving's time-capsule performance was the poor shooting night turned in by Singler -- again. The 6-foot-8 senior did have 15 points, but he needed 14 shots to get them. He still made winning plays, most notably the seven rebounds and two three-pointers he drilled midway through the second half to give Duke its largest lead at 61-49. But, if you take away Singler's 9-for-15 outing against Oregon last Saturday, he is shooting 39.7 percent from the floor this season and 29.6 percent from three-point range. It's a credit to how good Duke is that they are still undefeated, but they'll have a hard time winning a national championship if Singler's right hand stays this cold.
4. Delvon Roe is who he is. I remember watching three dozen of the country's top high school players compete for three days at USA Basketball's youth development festival during the summer of 2007. The best player at the camp was Greg Monroe, but Roe was a very close second. A few weeks later, Roe suffered a microfracture in his right knee, which cost him his entire senior season of high school. As a result, Roe struggled his freshman year, and then he played most of last season with a torn meniscus in that same knee. After getting healthy and strong over the summer, Roe was supposed to be headed for a breakout year, but it is not happening. And as much as I like this kid, I'm afraid it never will. His stat line Wednesday night: five points, five fouls and four turnovers in 19 minutes.
5. Both these teams have lots of room for improvement. I've pointed out some flaws here, but I still think these are the two best teams in the country. Who else but Michigan State could go into Cameron, commit 20 turnovers, get bupkus from Roe and Durrell Summers (and not much more from Kalin Lucas) -- and still only lose by five? And who else but Duke could get a lousy shooting night from Singler, a quiet game from Nolan Smith and almost no help from its bench -- and still lead a plucky Spartans team pretty much wire-to-wire? Both coaches have to come away from this game feeling like their teams can play a lot better. College basketball fans should feel pretty lucky -- but hardly surprised -- if these two faced off one more time in Houston on April 4.
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