NEW YORK—After starting the month of December with four straight 30-point blowouts, Duke will close out 2018 with another top-15 showdown.

The second-ranked Blue Devils, who are plenty accustomed to dealing with premier opponents this year, will take on undefeated No. 12 Texas Tech Thursday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. While Duke has a 2-1 ledger against top-10 teams this season, the Red Raiders are hoping to bolster their resume after playing the fourth-easiest schedule amongst NCAA Division I teams thus far according to KenPom.com.

"They’re a great team—undefeated, veteran team and tough," junior captain Jack White said. "They have a lot of really good players. We’re going to have to be on our A game and do everything in our control to make ourselves ready."

Despite starting four freshmen, the Blue Devils (10-1) have risen to the occasion when playing on the nation's biggest stages this season. Duke took the college basketball world by storm when it completed a 34-point thrashing of then-No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic Nov. 6. Two weeks later in Maui, the Blue Devils cruised past then-No. 8 Auburn and mounted a 16-point second-half comeback against then-No. 3 Gonzaga before falling in the final seconds.

On the flip side, Texas Tech (10-0) has faced just a pair of Power 5 opponents this season, comfortably taking down Southern California and Nebraska on consecutive days en route to a Hall of Fame Classic title in Kansas City. The Red Raiders also beat Memphis at a neutral site in Miami earlier this month, but they will encounter an entirely different level of competition Thursday.

After missing five shots in the final minute against Gonzaga, R.J. Barrett has continued to attack the interior and has emerged as one of the most dominant all-around offensive players in the country over the last month. Since returning from Maui, Barrett has averaged 26.4 points on an efficient 59.3 percent conversion rate, and has added 8.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest, part of the reason why his team is fifth in the nation in scoring with 93.6 points per game.

"After Maui, with our entire team, we talked about how we can get better at sharing the ball and defensively, and you get better if you practice," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "When we had six games in 15 days and all that travel, with a young team, your habits are not there yet, and you have to keep reinforcing them, so since Maui, we’ve really worked hard defensively and sharing the ball. The guys are doing a good job with it."

Texas Tech will look to counter with its own dynamic playmaker in 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Jarrett Culver. Culver leads the Red Raiders in points, rebounds and assists with 19.1, 5.7 and 4.5 per contest, respectively, and despite not facing top talent yet this season, playing in the spotlight will be nothing new for the Lubbock, Texas, native—Culver averaged more than 20 minutes per game during last season's Elite Eight run. 

The Red Raiders are the nation's top defensive unit according to KenPom.com, and the addition of graduate transfer Tariq Owens has bolstered their interior presence. The 6-foot-10 forward averages 2.7 blocks and 5.3 rebounds per contest, but will face a tough task with 285-pound Zion Williamson in the post as well as the veteran tandem of Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. 

"They’re a good defensive team, so we just have to go in and play our game," Barrett said. "It’s going to be a big test in Madison Square Garden, and we’ll see what happens."

Owens has had success against the Blue Devils before. His 17-point, four-rebound performance against Duke Feb. 3, 2017 as a member of St. John's was a crucial part of his former team's 81-77 upset of the Blue Devils at Madison Square Garden. 

Despite being hailed as "Cameron North"—Duke owns a 29-11 record at Madison Square Garden during the Coach K era—the Blue Devils have struggled at the World's Most Famous Arena lately. Duke has emerged victorious in just one of its last four contests at the Garden, with the lone victory coming in an 84-74 win against Florida Dec. 6, 2016.   

"It’s every kid’s dream to play in the Garden. It’s every coach’s dream to coach in the Garden. It’s still a thrill for me to go there, and the ball bounces and sounds different. The public address system sounds different," Krzyzewski said. "Probably at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, the basketball gods play pickup there when there’s no room in Cameron. It’s one of those places that it’s an honor, it’s a thrill to be there."