Devils on the Docket

It's official.  Michigan State will travel to Durham to play Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Wednesday, December 1.  With the Spartans and Blue Devils occupying two of the top three spots in almost everyone's preseason's rankings, the game will be the most eagerly-anticipated nonconference game of the season.  Hopefully, the game is more entertaining than the last match-up involving MSU that had garnered that billing.

(By the by, three sets of preseason rankings issued by national writers now have MSU in the #1 spot: Mike DeCourcy, Gary Parrish, and Mike Miller.  Not sure how I feel about that.)

Duke returns only two starters from its national championship-winning team, but they're two pretty good ones: Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.  Miles and Mason Plumlee will provide the size up front.  Super-recruit Kyrie Irving and super-transfer Seth Curry should provide immediate offensive punch in the back court.

The game will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two programs.  Duke has won 5 of the previous 7 games in the series.  The two MSU wins came in 1958--when a Jumpin' Johnny Green-led MSU team beat a rebuilding Duke team 82-57 in the preseason Dixie Classic--and 2005--when MSU beat a #1-seeded Duke squad 78-68 behind 20 points and 12 rebounds from Paul Davis en route to a Final Four appearance.

Duke's 5 wins came in 1994 (in the second round of the NCAA Tournament), 1998 (in a nonconference game played in Chicago), 1999 (in the national semifinals), 2003 (in a game MSU imploded in at home), and 2004 (in Durham).

So, in 2 of the 4 seasons in which MSU and Duke played each other during the nonconference schedule, the two teams met again in the NCAA Tournament (1998-99 and 2004-05).  That's a pleasant, if not particularly meaningful, factoid.

Here's the full slate of games for the challenge:

Monday, November 29
       Virginia at Minnesota

Tuesday, November 30
       North Carolina at Illinois
       Ohio State at Florida State
       Michigan at Clemson
       Georgia Tech at Northwestern
       Iowa at Wake Forest

Wednesday, December 1
       Michigan State at Duke
       Purdue at Virginia Tech
       North Carolina State at Wisconsin
       Indiana at Boston College
       Maryland at Penn State

All three of the Big Ten's top-ten contenders have to play on the road.  But that means 5 of the 8 remaining Big Ten teams get to play at home, making a second consecutive challenge win for the conference plausible, but not necessarily probable.  (Negative spin: Michigan, Iowa, and IU all playing on the road gives the ACC three games that should be relatively easy pick-ups.  And the weakest ACC performer from the past season, Miami, is the odd team out this year.)

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