Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - A couple of marquee matchups are on tap at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday evening in the fourth-annual Champions Classic, starting with a Top-25 showdown between the 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans and the fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
The second half of the event will feature the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats against the fifth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are once again one of the premier teams in the country. Despite the loss of stars Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to the NBA this offseason, Duke has reloaded with a plethora of young talent that should keep the team at or near the top of the ACC all season long. The first two games of the season were more proof of that, as Duke made light work of both Presbyterian (113-44) and Fairfield (109-59).
Tom Izzo's Spartans are no stranger of the spotlight. Michigan State has consistently been among the Big Ten's best and this year should be more of the same. MSU advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight last season and finished the year with a 29-9 overall mark. The team opened the 2014-15 season on the road, taking on a tougher than expected Navy team on Friday. The Spartans were able to earn a hard-fought 64-59 win.
Duke has won eight of the 10 all-time meetings with Michigan State and is 5-2 when the games are played on a neutral floor. The Blue Devils have won three straight meetings with the Spartans, including a 71-61 decision in the 2013 NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.
The Spartans held a 13-point lead in the second half, but that margin was trimmed to just three with under two minutes to play, before Michigan State re-established itself down the stretch to earn the win. Travis Trice had a huge game, netting a career-high 25 points, thanks in large part to an impressive 5-of-6 showing from behind the arc. Branden Dawson was the only other Spartan to finish in double figures, scoring 12 points, while grabbing a team-best eight rebounds. The Spartans played strong defense, limiting the Midshipmen to a mere .407 shooting performance, while earning a 38-30 edge on the boards.
Things are looking awfully good in the early stages of the season for Duke. The Blue Devils have dominated their first two opponents, and as a result, are boasting of a ridiculous +59.5 scoring margin. Offense has obviously been no problem, with Duke going over the century mark in each of the first two games and averaging 111.0 ppg thus far.
Freshman center Jahlil Okafor has definitely lived up to his billing, shooting an eye-popping 17-of-20 from the floor (.850), while averaging 18.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Fellow freshmen Justise Winslow (16.5 ppg), Grayson Allen (13.5 ppg) and Tyus Jones (10.5 ppg, 6.0 apg) have made immediate impacts as well. The team also gets production from Quinn Cook (15.5 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Amile Jefferson (9.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg).