Ahead of a massive ACC/Big Ten Challenge match-up, here’s who our staff thinks will come out on top in East Lansing.
The No. 10 Duke Blue Devils (7-1) head north to face No. 11 Michigan State in the 20th ACC/B1G Challenge on Tuesday night. Duke has had a rough week, losing to Stephen F. Austin in a shocking upset and scraping past Winthrop at home.
The competition level jumps massively on Tuesday, as Michigan State comes in undefeated at home and averaging over 80 points per game. The Spartans are led by senior guard Cassius Winston, who is averaging 17.9 points per game and junior forward Xavier Tillman (12.9 PPG).
Duke will be without star freshman Cassius Stanley, who is third on the team in minutes and points.
With the odds stacked against them, here’s what our staff predicts will happen in tonight’s match-up.
Zack Smith (@zackrusmith): Michigan State 79, Duke 71
Both teams are off to rocky starts and are looking for a win tonight to help bolster their tournament résumés. A matchup to watch is Vernon Carey Jr versus Xavier Tillman. They should be matched up quite a bit and Carey should be able to use his size advantage to get his fair share of buckets.
With Cassius Stanley out with injury, Duke will look to stop Michigan State’s Cassius. Cassius Winston is averaging 17.9 points, six assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He will be the main focus of the Duke defense tonight. Considering home-court advantage and the overall experience of the Spartans, I expect them to pull out a tightly contested game.
Richard Adkins (@RichardJAdkins): Duke 74, Michigan State 71
Tonight the spread is set with #11Michigan st -6 favorites to beat #10 Duke at home, however, expect this game to go very different as Duke has something to prove after embarrassing home loss to unranked Stephen F Austin. The blue devils currently 7-1 will face their first ranked match up since beating Kansas 68-66 at the start of the season, but despite lack of strength in opponents, Duke hasn’t lived up to expectations. This is the game Duke needs to silent the doubt and crank up their national title hopes. Expect this to be a back and forth affair with Duke crawling themselves to victory after going on a run.
Christian Candeloro (@christiancande3): Michigan State 88 Duke 83 2/OT
Let’s get crazy with this. If it was in Cameron, I’d take the Blue Devils with no issue, but playing up in East Lansing swings this to a pick ‘em for me. Losing Stanley to an injury is going to be just too much for the Blue Devils to overcome. I think that Carey and Tre Jones giving the Blue Devils enough firepower to make this a good match-up. Jones will have a massive challenge against Cassius Winston and will have to step up defensively. If Jones can slow him down, then this game will remain close. If not, then Sparty will run away with it.
Luke Tucker (@luketucker19_): Duke 83, Michigan State 81
It was Michigan State that ended Duke’s NCAA Tournament run in March, and it’s highly unlikely the Blue Devils have forgotten it. Playing at Michigan State is going to make it difficult, but Duke is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, and if it comes down to a shootout, which it likely will, then Coach K’s squad has the firepower to pull out the win. The media will focus on the Tre Jones-Cassius Winston matchup, but don’t be surprised if Vernon Carey steals the show. Look for the Blue Devils to squeak out a close one.