In the State Farm Champions Classic, the No.1 ranked Duke Blue Devils took on the No. 2 ranked Michigan St. Spartans last night at the United Center in Chicago.
These two powerhouse college basketball programs are no stranger to each other, as both took center stage on a national spotlight in a young college basketball season. Both teams, led by Hall of Fame Coaches Mike Krzyzweski (DUKE) and Tom Izzo (MSU), have very high hopes for the 2017-2018 season.
The Blue Devils are led by Senior Guard Grayson Allen, who happens to be the lone senior on a freshman-dominated team. Allen will look to gel with a highly recruited freshman class of forwards Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., and guards Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr. Meanwhile, the Spartans look to build on last year’s success behind the leadership of returning sophomore All-American Miles Bridges.
If you’re like me you notice little things. I’m sure for most this didn’t go unnoticed however not much was said about the Blue Devils warm up shirt that expressed “EQUALITY” in bold lettering across the chest of every player. Considering all the backlash and scrutiny of the NFL and players kneeling during the National Anthem, seeing this move from Coach K and his team should’ve made more of a statement then I think it did.
The Blue Devils went away from their traditional man-to-man defense and opened the game in a 2-3 zone; while the Spartans looked to capitalize in transition by pushing the pace on made and missed baskets. The Blue Devils have the exceptional length in their bigs and wing players, something they haven’t had in a long time, that I’m not surprised to see Coach K steal a page from his USA Basketball Assistant/Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim.
After a rocky conclusion to his Junior season, Grayson Allen looked like the leader he’s expected to be as he looked to defer and get the freshman involved early on. The Spartans executed to perfection vs. the Blue Devils 2-3 zone, however, the zone did give them problems at times causing turnovers and allowing Duke’s guards to push the ball in transition and finish above the rim. The Blue Devils newfound size in their front court got several second-chance opportunities as they dominated the offensive boards, but the youth showed as they weren’t able to convert many of those into points.
The Spartans continued to push the pace and force the issue in their transition game. Coach K definitely looked like he’ll have a dominating inside presence this season, something they haven’t had in a long time. Despite their dominance inside, teams may look to foul their way out of trouble as prior to tonight’s matchup the Blue Devils are only shooting 46% from the charity stripe as a team. The Blue Devils headed into the locker room with a 38-34 lead at the half. Freshman guard Trevon Duval had a solid first half along with Allen who hit a deep three-pointer from 40 ft to end the first half.
The second half was filled with multiple lead changes as both teams went on significant runs. Grayson Allen exploded in 2nd half ending with a game-high 37 points including 7-3PT FGs. Coach K stuck with the 2-3 zone the entire game which ended up working out to their advantage as Duval ended the game with 6 steals to go along with 17 points and 10 assists. Fellow freshman Carter Jr., contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Blue Devils pull out a tough win, DUKE 88 MSU 81, to remain No.1 (for now).