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Tuesday is one of the few days before the new year in which college basketball will be thrust into the national spotlight, as No. 1 Duke faces No. 2 Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic.
The Champions Classic is a perfect introduction for casual fans to what the 2017-18 season may look like. Everyone knows who Duke’s Grayson Allen is, mostly because of the fuming hatred he triggers in fans, but there’s another returning name in Tuesday’s showdown you need to know, and that’s Miles Bridges.
Bridges, who decided to come back for his sophomore season, has earned every preseason accolade possible, but now it’s on him to back it up on the hardwood over the next six months.
The matchup is a contrast of Duke’s youth against the experience on the Michigan State roster, but it should deliver us with one of the best games of the regular season.
Start Time and Live Stream
Start Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
If you’re looking for the newest name to watch in college basketball, you can’t go wrong with Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. The star freshman was the top recruit in the high school class of 2018, but he reclassified to the class of 2017 and committed to the Blue Devils in August.
Bagley made an immediate impact on Friday night with 25 points in the opening-night win over Elon, where he set a Duke freshman scoring record for a season opener, per NCAA March Madness on Twitter:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
Quite a debut. Marvin Bagley III sets a Duke freshman record with 25 points in a season opener as the No. 1 Blue Devils drop Elon, 97-68. https://t.co/wVVLdnb4OP
In addition to Bagley, the Blue Devils have a few more talented first-year players in Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent, all of whom surround Allen in the starting lineup.
All five starters scored in double digits in Sunday’s win over Utah Valley, with Bagley once again leading the way with 24 points.
Lance King/Getty Images
There’s no doubt the Blue Devils have as much talent as anyone in the nation, but they’ll need to prove they can get the job done in big games as well, which is why Tuesday night is so important to them.
The second-ranked Spartans only had one tune-up before making the short trek south to Chicago. Tom Izzo’s crew beat up on North Florida on Friday 98-66, with Bridges leading the charge with 20 points.
Al Goldis/Associated Press
Izzo started a quartet of sophomores and freshman Jaren Jackson on Friday with experienced veterans Tum Tum Nairn, Kenny Goins, Matt McQuaid and Gavin Schilling coming off the bench.
The Spartans received plenty of praise from North Florida coach Matt Driscoll after their win on Friday, with Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press sharing those comments:
Chris Solari @chrissolari
Driscoll on MSU: “What would be their weakness? Their weakness can only be themselves.” Says “kryptonite” of being too selfish.
Michigan State has the edge in experience and depth with one of the deepest benches in the nation, but when it comes down to pure talent, the teams are on a level playing field.
One has to assume the big stage won’t get to the Duke freshmen much, and Tuesday’s showdown of college basketball giants will produce 40 minutes or more worthy of its marquee billing.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.