#6 Illini at #10 Duke Game Preview, Odds, TV Info, Prediction

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Part of me really wanted to just do this as the #6 Illinois Fighting Illini at #10 Duke Blue Devils Game Preview: “I hope it doesn’t get cancelled due to COVID. It would be something fun to watch on TV. The End.”

That’s where we are, as “games are being cancelled at a 20-25% clip.” Illini coach Brad Underwood pointed out during a media opp on Friday. “You’ve got a mad scramble all the time,” he said in regards to responding to COVIDouts and trying to reschedule.

This is commonplace, not abnormal at all. This media opportunity began with the announcement that the next day’s game, vs Tennessee-Martin was cancelled due to an outbreak.

“It’s scary as hell,” Underwood said of the anitgen test. “It’s Christmas Day every time it comes back with a green dot on it.”

He’s right. Anyone who’s undergone a COVID test, and had the people in hazmat suits probe your nostrils can relate to these quotes. The Illini tried to get another game this past weekend, calling up Baylor and UConn, but it didn’t work out, obviously.

Let’s preview the Illini trip to Duke and get it posted, before it gets called off at the last minute.

mike krzyzewski grayson allen

#6 Illini at #10 Duke FYIs

TV: Jon Sciambi, Jay Bilas ESPN at 8:30 p.m. Central, Tues Dec 8

Spread: Duke -4, O/U 147.5

BIG/ACC Challenge: it’s way past high time ESPN dumps the hype machine and brand build-up for this thing. No one cares, or remembers what conference wins, or by what margin. Or if you actually do, well, I’m sorry, but you need much more in your life.

Now, to be clear I’m not talking about the games themselves, as it’s great to have meaningful preconference games again. I’m speaking about the branded name b.s. It’s silly, especially in 2020 when there are real things for us to care about.
duke basketball coach k
Looking at Duke 
Make no mistake about it, this is a Duke game on ESPN, and you know that means- fawning. Mike Krzyzewski is a living legend, no doubt, but the obsequiousness he gets from Bristol will be on full display once again tomorrow night.It will be more slobbering than Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, Judge Jeanine and whomever is paid to talk words through the television machine on OAN or NewsMax describing Trump.
So just prepare yourself now for that.Looking at the team itself, once again they are very young, but extremely talented. Krzyzewski kind of stole John Calipari’s bit when it comes to the constant churning, restarting and refeshing with five-stae frosh, but when Coach K. does it, in the eyes of the national media, it’s cool.

When Cal did it, it was of course “ruining the sanctity of the game.” *eye rool* *vomit*

Underwood compared one of those blue chip Blue Dveils freshmen, Jalen Johnson, to Ben Simmons on the media call today. He also said he’s a big fan of freshman guard DJ Steward, whom he tried to get to sign with Illinois.

Additionally, Underwood lauds Duke for having “tremendous variety and flexibility.”

He also called Matthew Hurt “outstanding” and was impressed by their aggressiveness on defense. It’s Duke, there will be white guys you will hate/love to hate, maybe even hate to hate as well.

brad underwood

Looking at Illinois 

This could be a great chance for the freshmen to really make their mark. Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo could really use this game as a chance to announce their arrival on the national stage.

Underwood described Curbelo as “a magical ball handler” during that Friday morning media Zoom. Now let’s see him start to develop the rest of his game.

Miller came out of the gates firing, shattering Brandon Paul’s school record for points scored in a debut game. Now let’s see him do it against a blue blood, instead of just vs low majors.

Curbelo, on media call today, described the Baylor game as “a good wake-up call” for what’s ahead the rest of the season. Illinois was neck in neck until about the under 8.

Then there was a 90 second stretch where everything went wrong, and the team pretty much folded up shop after that.

The Illini will need to be much more mentally strong and psychologically tough here. Curbelo was also refreshingly honest in saying that he gets more hyped for games like these than he does versus other opponents.

He also said Duke was his dream school growing up in Puerto Rico, so he’s excited about this opportunity to play against them now.

Said Underwood: “With freshmen, there come learning curves and mistakes. …But I love our freshmen, and our freshmen will be terrific.”

We’ll see how fast the learning curve bends on Tuesday night in Durham.

illini basketball

Prediction: Illini 77, Duke 71 

I’m contradicting the oddsmakers here, I think the Illini got this. The Baylor game went south in a hurry, sure, but I do think that is going to make this squad realize the preseason hype is just that; until you live up to it, and that requires putting in work.

However, Michigan State just won at Cameron Indoor last week, convincingly, and there is no reason to think the Illini cannot as well. It does help that you don’t have the Cameron Crazies to deal with.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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