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Beats' picks: Can Duke take down MSU in its first primetime matchup of the season?

Can Jalen Johnson lead No. 6 Duke to victory against No. 8 Michigan State?
Can Jalen Johnson lead No. 6 Duke to victory against No. 8 Michigan State?

Duke hosts Michigan State Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the 2020 iteration of the Champions Classic. Five of our beat writers make their predictions for the top-10 matchup.

Evan Kolin: Duke 77-73

The Blue Devils' 22 turnovers Saturday against Coppin State, many of them self-inflicted, are a concern, especially considering the Spartans' wealth of experience. But I predicted a Duke win in this matchup before the season began and one sloppy performance isn't enough for me to reverse that take. I expect Jalen Johnson to shine on a national stage and Duke to pull ahead late for another instant classic between these two storied programs.

Derek Saul: Duke 84-79

I expect this to be a high-scoring affair, easily surpassing the 152-point over/under. This game could come down to who wins the battle between Johnson and Hauser. The versatile forwards could very well both finish the year as All-Americans, but I expect Johnson to get the better of Hauser thanks to his superior athleticism and ball handling.

Conner McLeod: Duke 84-70

Despite Duke’s poor play in its opener, Coach K now has a better understanding of what his rotations should be, and his freshmen will be more comfortable on the floor. Michigan State will put up a good fight, but behind another stellar performance from Johnson and a breakout game from one of Duke’s veterans, the Blue Devils will come away with their second victory of the season.

Jake Piazza: Michigan State 77-72

I know Duke is favored in this matchup, but the inexperience of the Blue Devils is going to show. I’m expecting a big night from Johnson, although the turnover bug is going to bite him and his teammates once again, leading to a Spartan win. 

Max Rego: Duke 78-75

I’ve been going back and forth on this one all day. Both teams are replacing their do-everything point guards in Tre Jones and Cassius Winston, though both also feature standout newcomers in Johnson and Hauser. Many of Duke’s turnovers against Coppin State were unforced errors, so if the Blue Devils clean that up, I anticipate a resumé-building victory for Coach K's squad.

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