The ACC/Big Ten Challenge kicks off this week, and one of the best matchups is set for Tuesday night. The Duke Blue Devils will host the Illinois Fighting Illini in a matchup of legitimate Final Four contenders.
Illinois is currently number 6 in the latest AP rankings and they enter play with a 3-1 record. The Fighting Illini suffered an 83-69 loss to Baylor last week in another matchup of highly ranked teams.
Duke is currently the number 10 ranked team in the country and they are off to a 2-1 start. The Blue Devils suffered a 75-69 loss to Michigan State at home as part of the State Farm Champions Classic last week.
The Blue Devils are -3.5 point favorites over the Fighting Illini in this huge ACC/Big Ten matchup.
Illini Need More From Stars
If Illinois is going to bounce back with an upset win over Duke, the two future NBA players must take control of this game. Guard Ayo Dosunmu and center Kofi Cockburn came back to school to play in games like this, and it’s time for them to step up.
Dosunmu went just 6-of-18 from the floor in the loss to Baylor and he was frustrated by the Baylor defense. Cockburn was in foul trouble the entire game and finished with just seven points and four rebounds.
Backup center Giorgi Bezhanisvilli came off the bench to score 15 points in that loss, and he could have a big game against a smaller Duke team. The Illini are an extremely deep group, and that could also play a role in this game.
This is the best Illinois team since the 2004-05 season, but the Fighting Illini have yet to really prove anything this season. Winning a road game at Cameron Indoor Stadium could set the Fighting Illini up for a magical season.
Duke Must Make Shots
The Duke Blue Devils have a roster full of future NBA stars, but there aren’t a lot of shot makers on this squad. Three-point shooting was a real problem in the loss to Michigan State and the Blue Devils are shooting just 35 percent from deep on the season.
Forward Matthew Hurt has emerged as the best offensive player for Duke this season, pouring in 19 points, while also grabbing almost nine rebounds per game. Hurt will be a matchup problem from Illinois and his hot shooting can lift this Duke team.
Freshmen Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward have combined for more than 24 points per game, but each player struggled in the loss to the Spartans. Steward is from Illinois, and there is no doubt that he will have the attention of the Illini.
This Duke team will play great defense, but a lack of depth can hurt them at times. The Blue Devils must stay out of foul trouble to keep this one close.
Blue Devils Lose Another at Cameron Indoor Stadium
The Duke Blue Devils are not used to losing home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, especially to nonconference opponents. The lack of “Cameron Crazies” takes away the home-court advantage, and Duke just isn’t good enough to overcome that.
Illinois is looking for a signature win to really put the country on notice, and this is a great opportunity for them. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn will be too much for Duke and that duo will get the job done.
Duke will get things figured out before the NCAA Tournament, but they just don’t have enough depth. The mighty Blue Devils are headed to another loss at home, and to another Big Ten opponent.
Take the Illinois Fighting Illini to beat the Duke Blue Devils on Tuesday night.
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