Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has famously adopted a “one game at a time” philosophy when preparing his team for approaching games, and yet the Duke leader has also spoken of value of learning an opponent’s tendencies in the first match-ups.
As for the game against the Spartans, Coach K admits his team had success in the November match-up, but cautions his young group against putting too much stock in that game.
“It could have a negative impact,” Krzyzewski said of Saturday’s game, “if our guys remember them for who they were then.”
Star freshman Jahlil Okafor echoed his coach’s messages when asked about the previous game.
“They are a better team,” said Okafor. “That’s just a game that was part of our journey. It’s going to be a different game this Saturday and we’re looking forward to it.”
That’s certainly true as the Spartans played seven teams twice this season. In the first round of games Michigan State posted four wins and three losses, beating Ohio State by three, Indiana by 20, Michigan by 10, and Northwestern by seven. The three losses were to Maryland by two in double overtime, Illinois by five, and Wisconsin by seven.
The second round of games saw the Spartans beat OSU by nine (+6), Indiana by two (-18), Michigan by 13 (+3), Northwestern by 24 (+17), and Illinois by seven (+12). Michigan State was swept by Wisconsin and Maryland losing by 11 (-4) and 20 (-18) in the second meetings, though the Spartans did beat the Terrapins in the third meeting.
All told in seven games the Spartans were an average of 3.1 points per game better against their seven repeat opponents, and got an extra victory out of the schedule for it.
Meanwhile, Duke’s five repeat games resulted in a 3-2 record during the first round and posting a perfect 5-0 mark in the second. Against Wake Forest the Blue Devils struggled to an eight point win in Winston Salem, but rebounded with a 43 point win in the return game in Durham. Arch rival North Carolina pushed Duke to a two point overtime game in Cameron, but wasn’t able to challenge the Blue Devils in a seven point loss in Chapel Hill. NC State beat Duke badly in Raleigh, winning by 12 while Notre Dame beat Duke by four in South Bend. Those games taught some important lessons it appeared as the Blue Devils rebounded to beat the Wolfpack by 24 and the Irish by 30 in the second games. Notre Dame wound win the rubber match in the ACC Tournament, however.
So far the Blue Devils have posted a perfect 5-0 record in rematches this season, and they’ve been dominant in those games. After being a combined 24 points better than their opponents in the first games, and posting a 3-2 record, Duke rebounded to win the second games by and average of 24.0 points per game.
Can Coach K’s team do it again on Saturday night against a very game and hot opponent? We’ll find out on college basketball’s biggest stage.