Michigan State (2-0) at Duke (1-0)
When: Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium,
Time: 7:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Duke -5/152
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The beginning of the College Basketball season already feels different and that will include this week’s Champions Classic, which in the past, met at neutral sites for a big doubleheader. Both matchups take place Tuesday night including the Michigan State Spartans visiting an empty Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Duke Blue Devils. The other game will feature Kansas vs. Kentucky, which we will have a prediction for over on our College Basketball Free Picks page.
Duke has provided the smallest sample size of the four teams thus far, playing only one game. Their season opener was canceled against Gardner-Webb due to Covid-19, but Duke was able to go out this weekend and beat Coppin State 81-71. Duke led by 17 at half but were sluggish in the second half, thus failing to cover the very large 39.5-point spread. Freshman forward Jalen Johnson finished with 19 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and four blocks, as he appears to be the next great Duke freshman. The Blue Devils had trouble controlling the ball against Coppin State, committing an uncharacteristic 22 turnovers.
This will be Michigan State’s third game of the season and the first two were double-digit wins over Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame. They’ve displayed a balanced scoring attack, with four players who are averaging at least 10 points per game and four more who are averaging between five and nine points. Like Duke, Michigan State has dealt with turnovers, committing 30 of them compared to their opponents’ 19 giveaways. Michigan State used a 26-0 run spanning halftime in building a huge lead on Notre Dame in the 80-70 victory over the Fighting Irish.
This will be the fifth consecutive season that these teams meet and 10th matchup overall. Duke has won eight of the past nine, with the exception the 2019 NCAA Tournament’s East Region final. Overall, the Blue Devils hold a 13-3 series lead and have covered the spread in five of the last seven.
The balanced scoring attack is led by Marquette transfer Joey Hauser at 12.5 points per game, but was rusty from long range. Hauser hit 42.5 percent of his three-point attempts in his 2018-19 campaign with Marquette, but is 0-for-6 after two games. Hauser secured his first career double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds against Notre Dame and previously played for coach Steve Wojciechowski, the Marquette coach who is a former player and assistant coach under Krzyzewski. New starting point guard Foster Loyer has hit 6-of-10 while averaging 11.5 points a game. Forward Aaron Henry is averaging 10.0 points, five assists and five boards through the first two games. The Spartans will host Detroit Mercy on Friday.
Johnson wasn’t the only freshman who made an immediate impact in the Blue Devils’ season opener. D.J. Steward started his college career coming off the bench and contributed 24 points and nine rebounds. Johnson started alongside four returning players – Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker, Wendell Moore Jr. and Matthew Hurt, giving the Blue Devils plenty of experience. Duke got to the free throw line just 10 times on Saturday, connecting on only four shots, while Coppin State was 15-of-21. Moore Jr. was the third-leading scorer at 13 points, but also had three turnovers. Duke will host Bellarmine on Friday.
We don’t have a ton to go on here, but it does appear Duke is absolutely loaded once again. Krzyzewski will make sure the mistakes Duke made against Coppin State will be nipped in the bud before tipoff on Tuesday. There are no fans at normally raucous Cameron Indoor, but the Blue Devils should have enough to win and cover against a pesky Michigan State squad.
Pick: Duke -4