Ohio State vs. Duke: Key Matchups to a Blue Devils' Victory on Wednesday Night
The ACC-Big Ten challenge is officially under way.
It all kicked off Tuesday night, with the Big Ten picking up wins from the Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Indiana Hoosiers and Nebraska Cornhuskers, while the ACC received victories from Virginia Tech and Maryland to trail by two games heading into Wednesday night.
While another six matchups will take place on Wednesday, none will be scrutinized or talked about as much as the tilt between the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes and their hosts, the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils.
Tipping off at around 9:30 PM EST on Wednesday, scores of college basketball fans will be tuning in to this game, regardless of the impact it will have on the ACC-Big Ten challenge.
This game will be a huge indicator for March.
With Duke already having taken down two Top Three teams (Louisville and Kentucky) on the young season, there is no doubt it'll be confident heading into Wednesday night's contest, especially considering that this team will be playing in front of its hometown Cameron Crazies.
A win, however, is far from a guarantee.
If the Blue Devils hope to add yet another impressive win to their resume (which boasts wins over Kentucky, Louisville, VCU and Minnesota already), there are a few important matchups that they'll have to win.
Who will win Tuesday night in Durham?
First, they'll need Mason Plumlee to continue doing what he has been doing so far this season.
Already a front-runner for ACC Player of the Year (and potentially National Player of the Year), Plumlee will once again have his hands full on Wednesday night.
After being tasked with guarding Kentucky super-recruit Nerlens Noel and Louisville's top rebounder Chane Behanan, Plumlee will now be tasked with guarding Buckeyes' big man Deshaun Thomas.
That will be easier said than done.
Thomas is averaging 24 points per game this season (though Ohio State has yet to be truly tested so far this season), and he has added over seven rebounds per game, while turning the ball over less than twice a game.
With Behanan having had a terrible game on his own in the Bahamas and Noel still being a freshman, there is no doubt that Thomas will be Plumlee's most formidable test this season.
Luckily, Plumlee is battle tested (more so than Thomas, anyway) and should be up to the task.
The other major test for Duke will come from the Buckeyes' junior point guard, Aaron Craft.
With Quinn Cook coming off his best four-game stretch of his two years at Duke (he led the entire Battle 4 Atlantis field with 28 assists), there is reason for optimism among Blue Devils fans.
What's more, Cook has developed into an pretty good defender, meaning the Blue Devils should be able to lock down on Craft and ensure that he isn't able to run the Buckeyes' offense as effectively as Ohio State is hoping for.
Even if Cook does struggle and seems overmatched by Craft, Blue Devils' backup point guard Tyler Thornton has been excellent this season on the defensive end.
If Duke can keep both Thomas and Craft in check and can rally behind the energy of the Cameron Crazies, the Blue Devils should emerge victorious on Wednesday night and really spark a debate as to who the No. 1 team in the country is.
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