Dec. 3, 2019: The Big Time
Feast Week 2019 was stuffed with surprises: Duke falls to Stephen F. Austin at home, Sparty has no answer for Virginia Tech, and Michigan returns from Nassau as the hottest team in the land—and the one that nobody saw coming. The tryptophan of a thousand turkeys couldn’t have calmed the excitement that unfolded over the past seven days. And, while Thanksgiving has come and gone, the party is just beginning on the hardwood.
Tuesday, December 3! You better be there when Duke, Michigan State, and the Wolverines keep the three hottest storylines in college basketball going as they take the floor in games that will give us a taste of March in early December.
Michigan vs Louisville
Michigan will try to extend their win streak against top-ten teams to three as they head south to face Louisville, the new number one. This game will be a raging inferno as both the Cardinals and the Wolverines will enter with chips on their shoulders.
On one hand, head coach Juwan Howard and Michigan will look to prove that their dominant wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga were not flukes and that they are indeed a championship contender. On the other hand, Louisville will want to show a national audience that they didn’t simply back in to the top spot, that they are the best team in the NCAA. Both make strong arguments for their side, but only one will come away with the early bragging rights . . . and the number one ranking.
What To Watch For:
- Louisville junior Jordan Nwora, 6’7” forward and the Cardinal’s leading scorer (21.9 ppg), will be the wild card in this one. Michigan held Gonzaga’s Filip Petrusev to his lowest point total of the season, but Nwora’s ability to hit the deep three may stretch the stingy Wolverine defense to its breaking point.
- Keep an eye on Michigan’s lengthy freshman Franz Wagner. Wagner’s size (6’ 8”), range, and growing confidence will help him be a difference maker on the perimeter against the Cardinals.
- If this one stays close, it could come down to who wins the battle in the low post between Michigan’s John Teske and Louisville’s Steve Enoch. Both can defend, both can score, and both can change the outcome of a game
Duke vs Michigan State
The Blue Devils and Spartans will enter the Breslin Center in East Lansing as fallen giants eager to erase the impact of shocking upsets incurred during Feast Week. While Michigan and Louisville will be driven by the thirst for perfection, Duke and Michigan State will be inspired by some early-season desperation as they seek to avoid a loss that promises lasting damage. `
What To Watch For:
- Vernon Carey, Jr., Duke’s 6’ 10”, 270 lb. freshman center, gains confidence every time he steps on the court. Tuesday could be a big-time coming out party on a big stage. If he continues to progress as the hub for the Blue Devil’s inside-out offensive attack, the Spartans may be in for a long night.
- The battle between the point guards, Duke’s Trey Jones and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, a pre-season All-American, will be epic. Winston is the total package, but Jones majors in getting his counterpart into foul trouble. Tom Izzo will sit Winston with two fouls, and when he is off the court, Sparty struggles.
- The recent injury to Cassius Stanley will send Duke scrambling to replace his scoring output. This is good news for the Spartans; their loss to Virginia Tech exposed their weakness at defending a team with multiple options for points on the perimeter.
- Michigan State loves the three-pointer, and they are accurate when they have time to get set. Look for the Blue Devil defenders to smother the Spartan shooters and give Carey an opportunity to grab more than ten defensive boards.
Tuesday night will provide as much college basketball excitement as one could hope for so early in the season. Both games deserve the blockbuster label as both are prime-time toss ups. I expect the Wolverines and the Blue Devils to come out on top in nail-biters.