B1G-ACC Challenge Spotlight: Day 1
By: Greg Murray
Each day this week, Greg Murray will showcase one of the games from the Big Ten- ACC Challenge.
(4) Duke Blue Devils vs. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes 9:30 p.m. ESPN
This contest between Coach K’s Blue Devils and the Buckeyes is easily the marquee match-up of this year’s B1G/ ACC Challenge. Any game with two top-5 ranked teams is always enough to create a national buzz, but the atmosphere of the Challenge makes this one even greater.
Unlike most top-ranked teams in the NCAA, Duke has been tested on more than one occasion so far this season. They come into Columbus tonight 7-0 with wins over big name schools such as Michigan State, Tennessee, #15 Michigan, and most recently #14 Kansas en route to their 4th Maui Invitational Championship in school history.
On the flip side, the Ohio State Buckeyes host this contest with an unblemished 6-0 record. Their most outstanding victory came a few weeks ago as they defeated #9 Florida 81-74. Coach Thad Matta has a very confident Buckeye team on his hands, but tonight they face a more disciplined, balanced offensive squad in Duke.
Here is a breakdown of the positions:
In the backcourt, Duke starts freshman Austin Rivers (14.4 ppg) and juniors Seth Curry (15.1 ppg) and Andre Dawkins (10.1 ppg). Rivers was one of the most highly touted recruits coming out Winter Park, FL, and he has proven he is the real deal in his first seven collegiate games. His quickness and ability to drive to the basket has been unstoppable, not to mention his ability to shoot from beyond the arc. His one downfall, so far, has been his tendency to try and do too much. There were several occasions in Maui Invitational when he attempted to make something happen when it simply wasn’t there. Behind him are two of the best 3-point shooters in the country in Curry and Dawkins. Combined they are 33-66 from beyond the arc and both have the ability to regain momentum with one shot.
Ohio State also starts with a three-guard lineup with Aaron Craft (9.2 ppg), Lenzelle Smith Jr. (5.8 ppg), and William Buford (17.7 ppg). At the point, Craft is one of the best in the country. Not as much as a scoring threat, his forte is setting up other players around him as he leads the team in assists (5.5). Defensively, Craft is a menace; he averages over three steals per game and has arguably the quickest hands in the nation. Smith Jr. doesn’t normally play a huge role offensively, but can provide a spark at times coming up with a big rebound, as he is second on the team in rebounding (Impressive considering he only stands with a 6’4” frame). Senior William Buford is the big-game player from the outside for the Buckeyes. In their victory over Florida, he played in all 40 minutes and led the team in scoring with 21 points. Buford has been the complete package for Ohio State this year, but tonight it will be important for him to continue his hot shooting from outside. He comes into this game shooting 50% for 3 so far this year.
Ryan Kelly (14.6 ppg) and twins Mason (11.4 ppg) and Miles (5.6 ppg) Plumlee provide the bulk of the Blue Devil frontcourt. Mason gets the nod at starter over Miles, but both have significant impact on each game. On the season, Mason is averaging a double-double, while Kelly makes his impact known both inside and out. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but Ryan Kelly is a big threat from the outside. In high school, he won the McDonald’s 3-point competition and his success has continued as he is shooting an impressive 40% clip from beyond the arc. If Duke is going to be successful tonight, I think the frontcourt will have to make a bigger impact on the defensive side.
There is no question that Ohio State has one of the top big men in the country in Jared Sullenger. The pre-season All-American forward is averaging an astounding 18.7 ppg to go along with nearly 11 rpg. His presence will be known early and often, as the Buckeyes will most likely work the ball through him on most possessions. He will certainly give the Plumlee boys a lot of trouble. Sophomore Deshaun Thomas will be the other starting forward for Ohio State. He has a much bigger role for the team this season after being the 6th man for last year’s team. He has been a nice addition to the Buckeye frontcourt averaging just over 12 ppg.
This match-up has been circled on my calendar since the schedule came out earlier this year. Although Duke has played “road games” so far this season in Maui, the environment was very light and most likely even in their favor. Tonight, they will see a hostile environment at the Value City Arena in Columbus. The key tonight will be if Ohio State can stop the 3-point attack of Duke. They always bring a balanced scoring effort, as all five starters are averaging in double figures.
On the other side, it will be up to Duke’s big men to control Sullenger in the post. The fans will be hyped and the environment will be unreal. Not that they need anything else to make them excited, but rumors are that the newly-announced head football coach for the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer, will also be in attendance.
My prediction is that the emotions run high in the first half and Duke is a bit sloppy with the basketball, but in the end their shooting brings them to a close victory on the road.
Duke 79 Ohio State 74
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