Duke vs Michigan State: could hinge on Tre Jones vs. Cassius Winston Cassius Winston was among the 20,006 people who had settled into their seats at Capital One Arena to watch Duke play Virginia Tech on Friday night, and he, too, was witness to the absurdity of Blue Devils superstar Zion Williamson throughout the night.
But Winston, who just an hour earlier had more quietly led Michigan State to a win over LSU to advance to the NCAA tournament’s East Region final, also kept a close eye on Duke freshman guard Tre Jones. By halftime, as he exited the arena to head back to his hotel with his teammates, Winston had seen enough of Jones — how he controlled the offense, how he was unafraid to shoot, how relentless he was on defense — to know he would have his work cut out if the teams met in the next round.
By early Saturday morning, after Duke had survived with a last second, 75-73 victory, Winston had fully shifted his attention to Jones before Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup between the teams. “He does a lot of big things for them, and [he is] probably slept on a lot, in a lot of ways, because they have a lot of guys with a lot of publicity and a lot of hype,” Winston said of Jones.
These point guards don’t know each other, and their paths to this moment have never crossed. The differences between the two are striking: the 21-year-old Winston is nearly three years older than Jones.
Winston has played in twice as many NCAA tournament games, the latest in a long line of Michigan State veteran guards who have become heroes in March. Jones, meanwhile, could be one of four one-and-done Duke freshmen to declare for the NBA draft, potentially following in the footsteps of his older brother, Tyus, who left school after helping the Blue Devils win the national championship as a freshman four years ago.