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Know Your Opponent: Duke Blue Devils

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge provides another early season test.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Duke has established themselves over the past few decades as a college basketball ‘blue-blood’. Mike Krzyzewski has led the program to be the face of college basketball, and the Illini will have a primetime matchup against the Blue Devils on Tuesday night.

Duke has the reputation, they have the glamour, they have the highly rated recruits, and they have the famous court. Despite this, Duke has already been beaten by one Big Ten team (Michigan State) and are ranked four spots behind the Illini, at No. 10. In the past teams have gotten caught up in the ‘aura’ of playing Duke, teams shy away. Underwood and the Illini have something to prove though, and Tuesday night is a perfect time to prove it.

Last Season

The Blue Devils finished last season with a 25-6 record, finishing second in the ACC behind Florida State in the regular season. In the final AP poll the Blue Devils found themselves at the No. 11 in the rankings, likely giving them a No. 3 seed had the NCAA tournament occurred.

The Blue Devils were a good team last season, but by no means were the heavy favorite come March. They lost Vernon Carey Jr. and Tre Jones to the draft followed by three seniors: Jack White, Javin DeLarurier, and Justin Robinson.

Players to Watch

The Duke Blue Devils roster doesn't lack talent, that’s for sure; they had the third-best recruiting class according to 247sports. Jalen Johnson is one of these big names for the Blue Devils, the No. 12 ranked recruit in the class of 2020 and also the No. 1 player in the state of Wisconsin shot 8-of-8 from the field in his debut setting a Duke record by a freshman. Johnson shot 4-of-11 and 11 points last week in a loss to MSU.

Another player to keep an eye out for is DJ Steward. The Chicago native and Whitney Young alum is a five-star combo guard and the No. 2 ranked player in the state of Illinois last year. Steward has seen a lot of minutes — in his debut he poured in 24 points in 33 minutes. However, against MSU Stewards shot 0-of-7 with 6 points in 29 minutes.

Wendell Moore is a 6-foot-5 sophomore who has produced for Duke as well. He had 11 starts last season and averaged 7.4 points. Moore was a good player last year for a good Duke team, but against MSU last week Moore was 0-of-9 with 4 points.

Another player to watch for is Matthew Hurt. Another player with some more experience for a Duke roster, Hurt had 22 starts last season and averaged 9.7 point per game. Hurt was one bright spot for Duke against MSU pouring in 21 points on .429 shooting percentage.

Jeremy Roach is another starting guard for the Blue Devils and Jordan Goldwire will also see significant minutes off the bench against the Illini.

What to Expect

The Blue Devils have a good roster this season with players to fill every role and they can go deep as nine guys. The Illini will have to travel to Cameron Indoor, which is one of college basketball most notable arenas. But it will be an empty Cameron Indoor due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duke got handed a tough loss last week by Michigan State and it likely will be ready to get another shot at a Big Ten team. Regardless, the Illini also had a tough loss to Baylor last week and they will likely to be eager to get a shot at not only another top-10 matchup, but Duke. The Illini could really use a statement win like this early on in the season and they will have a good chance Tuesday night. Two top-10 teams that don’t want another primetime loss should have fans in store for a exciting night.