As we mentioned in this morning’s post previewing the early games, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge gets underway tonight with six key match-ups. But it is the evening set, featuring a blockbuster in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 9:15 PM that has everyone excited on this Tuesday. Let’s jump into the late games.
Michigan @ Duke, 9:15 PM, ESPN
B1G: One of the marquee games before the season even started, this one has lost a little bit of luster with Michigan’s slow start and Duke experiencing two losses (albeit good losses). Still its the national runner-ups going to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and one reason Michigan has struggled early is because Mitch McGary has been slowed with injuries, but who does Duke have that can guard him inside?
ACC: In short, this will be defense by committee. Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston are the true big men who earn minutes on this team, and both are defensive specialists. But Duke often employs a small lineup that sees Rodney Hood playing the four. This could be problematic if Hood struggles with fouls, as he did against Alabama. The best case for the Blue Devils would be forcing McGary into mismatches that cause him to guard smaller players on one end of the floor while Duke’s bigs use their fouls on him at the other end. On the flip side of the coin, who guards Jabari Parker for Michigan?
B1G: This is going to be tricky for Michigan on the defensive end, not only with Parker but also with Hood. They will probably go with some combination of Glenn Robinson and Caris LaVert playing Duke’s two standout wings. Freshman Zak Irvin has the size to also guard them when called upon. As for what you said about the offensive end, honestly Robinson isn’t doing much there right now anyway. He’s taking fewer than 10 shots a game, so in reality in might be best for John Beilein to tell him to concentrate primarily on stopping the wing he’s assigned to guard. These won’t be the only two Michigan struggles, though, with Duke’s Quinn Cook having a clear advantage at the point guard position. How will he exploit Michigan’s weakness at that spot?
ACC: Cook is off to an outstanding start on the offensive end, shooting close to 50 percent from the field and dishing out six assists per game. His main role is as a facilitator, but when teams collapse on Parker and Hood he has made them pay. Consistency has always been the issue with Cook, but he’s done well in his opportunities this season. If he can score enough points to keep Michigan’s point guards on edge, Duke’s offense as a whole will flourish. Since we are touching on the Wolverines’ point guard issues, who will Beilein go to to jumpstart the offense in a tight game in the last four minutes?