#6 Duke vs. Michigan State: Champions Classic Preview

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Michigan State doesn’t need to worry about the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Sure, Florida State will be a great team and they need to prepare for the Seminoles; but they’re getting the challenge right off the bat. Who plays the ACC’s big two back-to-back? The bitter rivals but traditional powers North Carolina and Duke in back to back games, and to start the season no less? Tom Izzo that’s who.

The Spartans return only 38% of their scoring, 48% of their rebounding, and 44% of their from last year, but this is no rebuilding season. No time for that with a schedule like this.

Duke (2-0) faces Michigan State (0-1) on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Madison Square Garden in the first game of the Champions Challenge. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. (EST)

Duke will be playing its third game in a five-day span on Tuesday.The head coaches (Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo) in Tuesday’s game have combined for 1,285 wins, 17 Final Four appearances and five National Championships. But the main storyline is Coach K entering the contest tied with long time Hoosiers leader Bob Knight as the winningest coach in NCAA history. Joe Paterno passed up Eddie Robinson for the most wins in division one college football history on October 22nd.

You know what happened to him after that. Let’s hope for his sake, history doesn’t repeat for the all-time college basketball wins leader.

Some notes on the Duke-Michigan State Series

Duke leads all-time 6-2, with Duke holding a 3-2 edge in those contests. They have met three times in NCAA Tournament action; the Blue Devils are 2-1 against the Spartans in tournament action.

In the last meeting between the two schools, Duke posted an 84-79 win over Michigan State on Dec. 1, 2010 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Cameron Indoor Stadium. You might remember that game as Kyrie Irving’s coming out party. He absolutely blew up; helping the Devils pull away from what was a tight game midway through the second. Duke dominated from there; the five point differential is mostly the result of late, garbage time window dressing.

Mason Plumlee (prepare yourself for Plumlee overload this year) had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in last season’s win over Michigan State. Plumlee collected seven of his 10 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor. Five of the eight games in the all-time series have been decided by 10 points or less.

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Skinny on Duke:

Duke is 30-2 in neutral site contests since the start of the 2008-09 season. The Blue Devils have won one NCAA Championship, three ACC titles and three in-season tournaments in that span. The Devils barely escaped Belmont in the opener; winning by one. They then routed Presbyterian in their second game.

Seth Curry is shooting 44.9 (70-of-156) percent from behind the three-point arc in his Duke career. The upperclass post rotation of Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee is averaging 36.0 points and 24.0 rebounds per game this season. The trio combined to average 18.6 points and 17.0 rebounds per game a year ago.

Mason Plumlee (like I said LOTS OF PLUMLEES EVERYWHERE) is averaging 14.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in Duke’s last four contests, including exhbition games against Bellarmine and Shaw. The junior forward is 26-of-32 (.813) from the field in that span.

Freshman Austin Rivers leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg.) and steals (2.5 spg.), while also ranking second in assists (3.5 apg.).

Skinny on Michigan State:

McDonald’s All-American Branden Dawson started in the Carrier Classic, i.e. the most awesome sporting event landscape ever. Seriously, who cares that the Spartans only fought and kept up with the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels for only 30 or so minutes? They got to play on a freakin aircraft carrier! How awesome is that?

And I wonder how college hoops is  doing in ratings with the NBA lockout? That aircraft carrier game, and now this champions classic gets some great games right off the bat this season. It seems like the college hoops season started earlier than usual this year, or at least the games were much better out of the gate.

Back to Dawson, look for him to play a key role in the outcome of this game. MSU is going for addition by subtraction this season, as Izzo has extolled the virtues of this team’s chemistry. And lamented how poor team chemistry was last season.  It’s Draymond Green’s team now and he announced his presence by grabbing 18 rebounds versus UNC.

In addition to Dawson, Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood will be a key contributor. Don’t expect the same from Travis Trice; not just yet. He’s a talent, but he won’t be a factor immediately.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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