Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
It’s one of the headliners in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and a win in this showdown is far more important to the home team and its conference. #9 AP/10 Coaches Purdue (5-1) hosts #4/4 Duke (7-0) on Tuesday night in a game that can be seen on ESPN, and even with a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season Matt Painter’s Boilermakers could use a win over a national “name” to show that they’re a contender to get to Detroit. Duke brings a different sort of test than the one defeat for Purdue, an overtime loss to Oklahoma in the final of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Sooners have one of the most dominant players in the nation in forward Blake Griffin, and while the Blue Devils don’t have that kind of interior presence they possess a number of versatile players who can do some serious damage.
At the top of that list is sophomore forward Kyle Singler, who leads the team in both scoring (16.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) on the season. The position of interest in the early going for Duke: point guard. Nolan Smith took over the starting role in place of senior Greg Paulus, and the Blue Devils haven’t missed a beat. In fact, you can make the argument that both players are far more productive in their new roles. Paulus can give a boost off the bench with his hustle, and Smith has done a good job of running the offense and being the point of attack on the defensive end of the floor. And don’t forget about perimeter players Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer, both of whom have the skills to hang twenty-plus on any opponent on their schedule.
Purdue is a team built in a similar mold to Duke, lacking a premier post presence but making up for it with perimeter versatility and a commitment to defense. Robbie Hummel, picked in the preseason to be Big Ten Player of the Year, leads the Boilers in rebounding (6.5 rpg) while trailing guard E’Twaun Moore (16.7 ppg) in scoring with just over fourteen points per game. Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant provide some depth on the perimeter, and viewers familiar with Duke teams from the mid-90’s may look at Kramer and think a little bit about current Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski and the way in which he played the game. Nemanja Calasan and JaJuan Johnson will need to step up their play inside for Purdue, with the Boilers being a -4.3 in rebound margin. Duke, despite their lack of interior muscle, is a +10.1 in that category.
Purdue definitely has a shot at winning this game, but the home crowd will have a tough time rattling a group as experienced as the one that strolls into Mackey Arena Tuesday night. Big games on a big stage is nothing new to Duke, while it’s been some time since Dick Vitale was courtside in West Lafayette. The experience, and a solid bench contribution from Paulus and forward Lance Thomas, is what will get Duke and the ACC another win in this challenge.
Winner: Duke Margin: 5-9 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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