The No. 6 Duke Blue Devils (2-0, 0-0) play in the first game of tonight’s State Farm Champions Classic against the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans (0-1, 0-0).
The game already matches two legendary coaches in Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. But, now the game will have the shadow of Krzyzewski’s chance of breaking Bobby Knights all-time wins record.
A win tonight will give Coach K his 903rd victory and the record.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: 7:00 PM
Watch: ESPN and ESPN3.com
According to SBCGlobal, the line is Duke by 6.5 points. This is a good line to take, as the Blue Devils will play with a lot of emotion to get their coach his record-setting win.
Michigan State will be outmatched in every position tonight.
Duke: There are no injuries to report as of now. Once we get deeper into the season, the injury bug will bite Duke.
Michigan State: Michigan State also has no injuries to report after its first game.
What’s at Stake
Michigan State currently sits outside of the Top 25. A win will not put the Spartans in the next polls, but it will move them closer to being ranked. A loss will keep Michigan State right where its is, on the outside of the polls.
A loss would drop Duke in the polls from No. 6 down to the No. 12 through No. 15 range. A loss will also continue Coach K's chase for his 903rd victory. A win for Duke will keep it at No. 6, as a win over Michigan State will do nothing to improve its rankings in any of the polls.
What They’re Saying
“I’m good about not making it that big of a thing, even though I know it’s a big thing. I’m not minimizing it.” Krzyzewski said, insisting his pursuit of the record has not been a distraction.
His players are trying to follow their coach’s example.
“We want to win for Coach, but we want to win every game,” said junior forward Ryan Kelly, who scored a game-high 17 points off the bench versus Presbyterian.
“That’s how we approach it, and that’s how Coach approaches it. He’s just worried about the game at hand. Numbers are a nice thing, but we need to worry about our team right now,” Kelly said.
Duke Players to Watch
Forward Mason Plumlee: If Curry cannot get his shooting going tonight, he will look to get the ball down low to Plumlee. The junior has worked hard in the offseason to improve his shooting as another outlet for the offense.
Michigan State Players to Watch
Center Derrick Nix: Nix had some problems in previous years with his weight and conditioning. However, the weight is off, and Nix is in some of the best shape of his life.
Tonight, Nix will use his new physique to battle the Duke big men down low, which will give the Blue Devils forwards headaches all game.
Small forward Braden Dawson: Dawson entered the season with a lot of hype, as he was a McDonald’s All-American. Dawson will be a force on the boards tonight with Nix. Both players will be dominant in rebounding against the Blue Devils.
Key Matchup: Duke PG Seth Curry vs. Michigan State Defense
The entire offense runs through Curry. If Izzo implores a tough physical defense, it will make for a long night for Curry to lead this offense. Look for Michigan State to hit the attacking Curry and the Blue Devils offense every time they drive to the basket.
Who wins this game?
Prediction: This will be an intense matchup between two great basketball programs. There will be a lot on the line, as Michigan State does not want to be a footnote to history.
However, the Duke players want to get this win for their coach tonight. The motivation to get the historical victory in Madison Square Garden will carry this Blue Devils team to a win.
Duke 58, Michigan State 50