Michigan State v Duke

Duke advances to the Elite 8 by knocking off Michigan State


No. 2 seed Duke slowly but surely pulled away from No. 3 seed Michigan State in the second half on Friday night, advancing past the Spartans and into the Elite 8 with a 71-61 win.

The Blue Devils will take on No. 1 seed Louisville on Sunday night for the right to go to the Final Four.

That regional final will be a rematch of the Battle 4 Atlantis championship back in November, a game that Duke won while the Cardinals were playing without Gorgui Dieng. It sets up an even more intriguing matchup, as Rick Pitino, when he was with Kentucky, and Mike Krzyzewski played arguably the greatest college basketball game of all-time back in 1992.

You may remember the ending

Back to the point, the reason that Duke is heading back to the Elite 8 isn’t because Seth Curry went off for 29 points and hit six threes, although that certainly didn’t hurt matters. It’s also not because of the play of Mason Plumlee, although the biggest Blue Devil was the best post player on the floor. He finished with 14 points, seven boards and a pair of blocks, which was valuable. So was the sequence in the second half when, after picking up his third foul, Plumlee immediately proceeded to score on back-to-back possessions in the post before drawing Derrick Nix’s third foul.

No, the credit for Friday’s win must be given to Duke’s defensive effort.

They held Michigan State to just 40.0% shooting from the field, a number that was much uglier before the Spartans scored a flurry of points in the final four minutes with Duke already up 13. More importantly, Michigan State couldn’t get into any kind of a rhythm offensively for the majority of the second half. Branden Dawson’s layup with 3:32 left in the game cut Duke’s lead to 62-53, snapping an 8:33 stretch where Michigan State didn’t hit a field.

It was that stretch that earned the Blue Devils the victory.

And it’s going to be that kind of defend that they need to play if they want to be able to knock off Louisville and make their way back to the Final Four.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.

h/t ShockerHoops.net