Published November 20, 2014
A lot has happened in the first seven games of the season for Duke, including Mike Krzyzewski becoming the all-time winningest coach in Division I history. In addition, the Blue Devils return to the mainland after capturing yet another Maui Invitational crown (their fourth), with wins over Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas. The Blue Devils are no stranger to this event, going 11-1 in Big Ten/ACC Challenge games.
Thad Matta's Buckeyes are certainly one of the best teams in the country, but the haven't left the friendly confines of Value City Arena yet, opening the year with an eight-game homestand which concludes on December 3rd against Texas-Pan American. The Buckeyes have steam rolled almost every opponent this season, including an 80-47 rout of Valparaiso last time out. OSU is 4-5 in this event.
The Blue Devils hold a 3-2 edge in the series with the Buckeyes, with the last meeting taking place in 2002. Duke is making its first trip to Columbus since 1964.
If the Blue Devils have a weakness, they haven't shown it yet. The team has been able to win games at either end of the floor, but it was defensive tenacity that gave Duke the edge against Kansas in the title game of the Maui Invitational. Duke held the Jayhawks to just 61 points, putting the clamps on Kansas in the second half, overcoming a halftime deficit to earn the win. The Blue Devils also forced 17 turnovers and put three players in double figures. Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly led the way up front with 17 points apiece. Plumlee was able to record a double-double with 12 rebounds. Freshman phenom Austin Rivers added 10 points to the cause. Duke is getting the job done with a +12.0 scoring margin thus far. Scoring depth is obvious, with all five starters averaging double figures. Seth Curry, who scored nine points in the win over Kansas, leads the way with 15.1 ppg. Kelly is a close second at 14.6 ppg. Rivers is next at 14.4 ppg, followed by Plumlee and Andre Dawkins with 11.4 and 10.1 ppg, respectively. Plumlee has really made his presence felt on the glass, averaging 10.0 rpg.
The Buckeyes haven't played the same competition that Duke has thus far and that is part of the reason the team is sporting a gaudy scoring margin of +30.5. Ohio State is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and averaging 85.2 ppg. It certainly helps overall shooting accuracy when one of the country's best low post players is leading the charge. Sophomore Jared Sullinger is simply as good as it gets in the frontcourt. He is shooting 63.3 percent from the floor and leads the Buckeyes in both scoring (18.8 ppg) and rebounding (10.7 rpg). Veteran guard William Buford provides backcourt balance with 17.7 ppg, while forward Deshaun Thomas can score both inside and out. Last time out, Ohio State made light work of Valparaiso, thanks in large part to a 25- point effort from Buford. Aaron Craft checked in with 15 points and eight assists, while Sullinger recorded a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Thomas rounded out the top scorers with 12 points. Ohio State took exceptional care of the basketball with just six total turnovers, while converting 18 Valpo miscues into 24 points.