Michigan State is eyeing spoiler role

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
3:16
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The preparations are in place for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to break Bob Knight’s all-time NCAA record of 902 wins tonight.

Knight is calling the game on ESPN. NCAA president Mark Emmert is here to honor Krzyzewski after the game.

There is a definite sentiment among the Blue Devils’ travel party to get this event over with, instead of letting it slide to Friday night against Davidson back home in Durham, N.C.

[+] EnlargeTom Izzo
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesTom Izzo and the Spartans are hoping to keep Mike Krzyzewski from reaching his 903rd career win Tuesday night.
But there is a slight problem. Michigan State is playing the Blue Devils. As one Duke official said after the team’s practice Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, “We’re not playing Presbyterian.’’

The Spartans are coming off an emotional season opener Friday night aboard the USS Carl Vinson in Coronado, Calif. They lost to top-ranked North Carolina, but outrebounded the Tar Heels and were the more aggressive team. If it can duplicate that edge and find a way to shoot straight (instead of the 2-for-20 performance from long range versus UNC), MSU certainly can be a spoiler.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is confident the Spartans can win. No one is quite sure how much pressure the Blue Devils will feel in trying to get No. 903 for Krzyzewski. The Hall of Fame coach was locked in after practice, but did comment on the uniqueness of passing his former coach and mentor -- something that may not ever happen again. Izzo didn’t think it would.

“I think we can beat them. I think they’re good but no one knows how all of this will affect them,’’ Izzo said. “They could play off the charts, too. They’re good.’’

Izzo put together this schedule of playing UNC and Duke back-to-back because of the rare opportunities they presented -- playing a game on an aircraft carrier on 11-11-11 and then being included in the three-year Champions Classic format that will rotate to Atlanta and Chicago over the next two seasons.

Asked if he would take a split of this opening two-game set, Izzo said, “Sold. It would be tremendous.’’

The Spartans are at full strength for this game as Branden Dawson is recovered from tweaking his right knee. Dawson slipped on a center court decal on the Vinson Friday night. He still played but wasn’t as effective in the second half. He didn’t practice over the weekend but did participate in the Tuesday shootaround and is cleared to start.

Michigan State has size and strength with Draymond Green, Dawson, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix.

“We’ll have to continue to rebound better and play better in transition,’’ Izzo said. “We had that one poor stretch. We needed to get home, watch some film and be in our own surroundings.

"This is like an NBA trip. It’s a tough trip. But we got home and got some rest.’’

Izzo said if the Spartans can contest Duke’s 3-point shots and limit their turnovers, they should have a chance to win the game.

“We’ll play the spoiler role,’’ Izzo said. “It’s an incredible feat. But hopefully Mike won’t do it tonight.’’

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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