This is the best pre-December college basketball matchup of the season and will be one of the first games to garner national attention. Both teams play fast enough to win with speed and are disciplined enough to grind it out in the half court game.
The Buckeyes look to bounce back after being eliminated by Kentucky in the Elite Eight last season. Thad Matta’s squad has solid play all over the floor, but the spotlight will be on sophomore sensation Jared Sullinger. Sullinger, who would have been a top-five pick had he declared for the 2011 NBA draft, scored 17 points per game last season.
A gutsy player with a body similar to Kendrick Perkins, Sullinger averaged 10 boards a game in 2011. Sullinger will be helped by senior William Buford, who came on late last year and hit some big shots for the Buckeyes, and fellow sophomore Aaron Craft who has proven he be a floor general.
The Duke Blue Devils have the combination of young talent and veteran leadership that spells NCAA Tournament success. Their young talent is lead by Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. If you look at any scouting report about Rivers, you will come across the word “confidence”. Not only can the McDonald’s All-American handle the rock, but he does not shy from pressure situations and has pro range.
Rivers’ stunning talent will be guided by the Plumlee brothers, Mason and Miles, and junior guard Andre Dawkins. At 6’10” each, the Plumlee brothers will provide bigs for Rivers to dish to in the lane, and Dawkins, who made over 40 percent of his threes last season will play the sharpshooter from beyond the arc.
In a game brimming with this much talent, the difference between winning and losing may be coaching. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is already a legend with four national championships, 11 Final Four appearances and an Olympic gold medal to his name. OSU’s Thad Matta does not have Coach K’s hardware, but he is an excellent coach. He coached the Buckeyes to Big Ten championships in 2006 and 2010, and has been named coach of the year by three different conferences.