Top NBA prospect Zion Williamson probably played his last college basketball game after Duke were stunned by Michigan State 68-67 during March Madness.
Williamson – who is expected to be taken with the number one pick in the 2019 draft – had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds but the Blue Devils still lost in the East Regional final at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Sunday’s victory sends the Spartans to Minneapolis for the Final Four – Michigan State’s 10th appearance in the national semi-finals, but first since 2015.
They will face the surprising Texas Tech Red Raiders in one semi-final, while Auburn and Virginia meet in the other.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, who entered the game with a 1-11 career record against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, could barely contain his joy afterward.
“It’s a dream come true … we’ve got some warriors here,” Izzo told CBS Sports following the game.
After narrow escapes against UCF and Virginia Tech in their previous two tournament games, the Blue Devils ran out of luck.
Here are three takeaways from the second-seeded Spartans’ huge win against the NCAA Tournament’s top-ranked team.
Winston picked Spartans up again and again
Michigan State ended the first half on a 13-0 run to take a 34-30 lead at the break, with All-American point guard Cassius Winston taking control, scoring eight of those points and picking up assists on the other five points.
Winston came through the entire game for the Spartans, ending with 20 points and 10 assists. But with the game on the line and 35 seconds remaining, 6-7 senior Kenny Goins calmly nailed a three-pointer to provide the winning points.
Forward Xavier Tillman pitched in 19 for the Spartans.
Michigan State protected ball well
The Spartans, now 32-6, had been careless with the basketball in this year’s NCAA Tournament, with a minus-14 in turnover margin in their first three games. But that script dramatically flipped against the Blue Devils, as Michigan State forced 17 turnovers and turned the ball over only seven times (Duke had been plus-8 in turnover margin in its first three games).
Duke had a better shooting percentage from the floor and from long distance and outrebounded the Spartans 42-31, but those extra possessions they picked up were critical.
Duke probably had their most talented team ever … but not their best team
Think of all the great Duke teams through the years, loaded with stars such as Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Shane Battier, Johnny Dawkins, J.J. Redick, etc. The 2018-19 Blue Devils might have been the greatest collection of talent ever in Durham. Williamson is the likely top pick in the NBA draft, and it is not hard to envision RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones all making future NBA All-Star appearances.
They were incredibly fun to watch, with Williamson providing one highlight after another, including an explosive drive and dunk.
Despite that array of talent, and Duke’s sterling 32-6 record, this did not feel like the best Duke team ever. They did not shoot the ball well from outside. While they made some sensational defensive plays at key moments — Williamson especially — they did not seem as solid on defense as previous Blue Devils squads. In short, they felt more like an all-star team, a collection of talent, than a team.
That situation is normal in today’s one-and-done atmosphere in college basketball. And that is why, despite the heroics of Williamson and RJ Barrett (21 points against MSU), another team based on one-and-done talent is going home without an NCAA championship. There is a lesson there somewhere, perhaps.