Busting Brackets

Duke Blue Devils To Be Tested By Michigan State Spartans


State Farm Champions Classic Duke Blue Devils vs. Michigan State Spartans

Tuesday, November 18, 2014  7:00 p.m. ESPN

Bankers Life Fieldhouse Indianapolis, IN

Basketball fans are in for a treat early Tuesday night as #4 Duke Blue Devils will take on #19 Michigan State Spartans at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Indiana) in the State Farm Champions Classic .

This past week, these top teams took the hardwood for the first time this season. Even though their previous games were not highly anticipated matchups, each team’s respective play pertains to tonight’s matchup.

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The Duke Blue Devils looked very impressive against the Presbyterian Blue Hose and the Fairfield Stags. Six players on Duke’s roster average double-digit PPG, while ten players average more than 15 MPG. It’s evident that Duke has a deeper roster. This allows for more of a balanced attack. This has been something Duke has lacked since the 2010-2011 season when Kyrie Irving ran the realms of the offense.

The spotlight will be Duke’s center Jahil Okafor. This will be his first glimpse playing against other top tier talent. He will have the size advantage in the paint (6-11 270lbs). Michigan State’s biggest body is Matt Costello (6-9 245lbs).

Expect the Spartans to double-team and throw different defensive looks at the big man to keep him from developing a rhythm. Okafor should have a tougher time averaging his 18PPG 7.5RPG and APG against the Spartans’ defense.

With so much attention going to Okafor, it will give other players the opportunity to play to their strengths. The biggest beneficiary thus far this season has been fellow freshman Justise Winslow. Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have raved about  what Winslow brings to the table. He has shown through these two games that he has a complete game. He can attack, finish at the rim, shoot, defend, but most importantly, he’s a competitor.

One thing to look forward to for tonight’s game is the defensive prowess on both sides of the ball. It seems that this year, Krzyzewski finally has the group of players that are capable of applying consistent full court pressure. From tip-off, the Blue Devils will look to apply heavy ball pressure against Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and the other Spartans guards.

Like most Tom Izzo’s teams, the Spartans will be led by the play of their upperclassmen. This year’s team returns four players who played significant roles on the team that lost in the Elite 8 to the eventual champions.  Despite not beating the Navy Midshipmen convincingly earlier this week, Michigan State’s core has a lot of experience and has been tested in any imaginable game-like situation.

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  • There are two must see match-ups for tonight’s State Farm Champions Classic. The Spartans will most likely feature a three-guard starting lineup. As a result, forwards Amile Jefferson and Branden Dawson will go head to head in the paint. Both players are known for making hustle plays and being catalysts of energy for their teams. It will surely be a spectacle to see these players crash the boards.

    The second match-up will be between MSU’s Travis Trice and Duke’s Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones. All three point guards have high basketball IQs and are more than capable of leading their team to victory. Tonight’s game will be played at a neutral site in Indianapolis, Indiana however, it’s hard not to imagine for there to be a larger fan base rooting for Sparty. With that being said, Cook and Jones will have to be able to get Duke into their offensive sets and find easy baskets for their teammates.

    The challenge Trice faces is not getting overwhelmed by the production of Duke’s guards. The Spartans don’t have the depth at the guard position as the Blue Devils do. Trice won’t leave the floor much. If MSU expects to win, it’s imperative that Trice takes care of the ball and slows down the pace of the game. Duke is one of the highest scoring teams in nation. Thus, the less opportunities Duke has to score, the better chance the Spartans have of winning.

    The Blue Devils are favored to win tonight’s game. Even though the Spartans may not have as much of a talented roster as Duke, they will still look to compete and leave the Fieldhouse with a win. Both coaches are class acts and will have their teams ready to play by tip-off. The State Farm Champions Classic should be one of the top games for weeks to come.