Beats' picks: Will No. 9 Duke men's basketball right the ship in Champions Classic against No. 18 Michigan State?

Kyle Filipowski dribbles around his defender in Friday night's loss to Arizona.
Kyle Filipowski dribbles around his defender in Friday night's loss to Arizona.

No. 2 Duke hits the road for the first time this season, heading to Chicago for the 13th annual Champions Classic. The Blue Devils will take on the 18th-ranked Spartans in a heavyweight battle, and The Chronicle's beat writers are here with their predictions on whether Duke will leave the Windy City with a win:

Andrew Long: Michigan State 69-65

My head tells me I should pick Duke here, but something about the way the Blue Devils lost to Arizona makes my gut say they get heartbroken in Chicago, too. Duke’s shooters fell flat against a good, but very bearable, Wildcat group, and even when Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach combined for an astounding 42 points, it didn’t feel like they were getting much help from anyone else. My worry about Tuesday against a Michigan State team that was possibly overranked at the start of the season is something similar. I didn’t see enough from the backcourt against Arizona to make me confident against head coach Tom Izzo’s talented and tough Spartans, who endured a shocking upset to now-ranked James Madison. Both teams need a win and only one will leave the Windy City above .500, but on current form, and despite the loss, I think I’m favoring Michigan State.

Rachael Kaplan: Michigan State 73-70

In each of Duke and Michigan State's losses to Arizona and James Madison, respectively, both teams shared a pretty glaring weakness: 3-point shooting. Granted, one did worse than the other, with the Spartans making a measly 1-of-20 attempts through 45 minutes of play and the Blue Devils drastically improving after their 2-for-12 first-half mark. But in Michigan State’s win against Southern Indiana, that didn’t improve, as it made 1-of-11 shots from deep. In Duke’s blowout win against Dartmouth, it was 7-for-17. Without its 3-point shots falling, the Blue Devil offense faltered. The Spartans found other ways to win. At the last two Champions Classics, Duke shot 3-for-21 and 1-for-12 from three against Kansas and Kentucky, respectively. History does not bode too well for the Blue Devils. 

Mackenzie Sheehy: Duke 84-76

Both Duke and Michigan State are going into Tuesday’s game with something to prove. The former is looking to bounce back after a loss to then-No. 12 Arizona while the latter is hoping to shake off a disheartening defeat at the hands of James Madison. However, in this clash of titans, the Blue Devils have the edge to pull out the victory.

While Duke was ultimately outplayed by the Wildcats Friday night, it showed flashes of brilliance in its ability to keep the contest close throughout the second half. Shooting 54.5% from beyond the arc and scoring more points than Arizona through the last 20 minutes of play, the Blue Devils nearly pulled out a nail-biting victory. More importantly, the loss gave the team actual experience against a quality opponent, whereas the Spartans have only gone toe-to-toe with seemingly inferior foes. If Duke can get greater production out of guards Tyrese Proctor and Jared McCain while fostering the talent of its deep bench, this team may just make the streets of Chicago bleed blue.

Ranjan Jindal: Duke 75-70

Michigan State has had a rough start to the season with a loss to James Madison, where the team was 1-for-20 from three. Yes, the Spartans lost elite shooter Joey Hauser, but are still too good of a team for this streak to continue. The question is when Michigan State will inevitably shoot better than its 6.5% mark from deep. This team is very physical and has elite guard play which will challenge the Blue Devils. However, I think Duke takes the edge for a couple of reasons. The Blue Devils’ size, led by sophomore center Filipowski, can take advantage of the Spartans’ relatively small starting lineup, and Duke has had more balanced scoring production than Michigan State thus far. 

Dom Fenoglio: Michigan State 78-74

The Spartans were one of the teams I was the highest on preseason, and despite their early loss to the Dukes, I still think Izzo might have one of the best rosters in the nation. What makes Michigan State so dangerous is exactly what many Blue Devil fans have been pointing to as their own strength: The Spartans have a combination of veteran leadership and exciting freshmen. Izzo brought in three recruits ranked inside ESPN’s top 30 and also returned four of his top-five leading scorers — headlined by graduate guard Tyson Walker. Walker averaged a team-high 14.8 points per game last season on 41.5% 3-point shooting, and while he has shot just 1-for-7 from deep so far this year, I think these numbers reflect a sluggish start, not a lack of talent. Should Michigan State and Walker get back on track from deep as I anticipate, Duke will have to step up to meet the challenge, and its own shooting struggles may get in the way. This game will again come down to the wire, but I think the Blue Devils will find themselves with two tough losses in their first three games.

Sophie Levenson: Duke 78-68

Duke may have dropped a tough loss to now-No. 3 Arizona Friday night, but the Spartans had a worse week. Offensive efficiency proved to be a big ask for Michigan State in its 79-76 overtime loss to James Madison where it landed 26-of-72 field goals while the Blue Devils exhibited a respectable depth of talent Friday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Playing away from home might be the biggest challenge for Duke in Chicago. The United Center will be the first away arena that the Blue Devils’ four freshmen will enter in college, and their veterans aren’t so great on the road, either. Ultimately, both teams enter the Champions Classic with a pretty sizable chip on their shoulders, making the game undoubtedly tough on both ends. But Duke’s miss with Arizona doesn’t indicate much more than a rocky start, whereas Michigan State’s shocking loss to James Madison might mean Izzo has some serious work to do. 

Jonathan Levitan: Duke 68-61

In Michigan State, Duke might as well be looking in a mirror. The Spartans are powered by veterans and are looking to get back on track after a disappointing home loss of their own. 

The difference, though, is that the Blue Devils have 40 minutes of experience against another top team to lean on, and that will serve them well Tuesday night inside the United Center. The Champions Classic is a great event, but in recent years, these four blue bloods have left something to be desired in the November spectacle, instead developing slowly into contending teams. That’s okay, and maybe even tells us something about the way college basketball is and should be. But here, it just means that a Duke team with Filipowski, enough perimeter defenders to keep Michigan State cold from the land of plenty and more battle experience than its opponent will do enough to earn a high-profile win.

Micah Hurewitz: Duke 82-70

Well, it’s not the No. 2 vs. No. 4 matchup we expected, but it’s still a great Champions Classic matchup. I’m not just looking at Duke’s history of dominance against Izzo’s Spartans, but I think the Blue Devils learned a valuable lesson about the state of their squad Friday night against Arizona that will help them sort out rotations and shooting issues that plagued Duke late. I expect to see a lot more of freshmen Sean Stewart and Caleb Foster while I also expect Michigan State to take a step forward shooting from deep. Guarding Walker is going to define the night for Duke, as he is the only Spartan scoring more than nine points per game in this young season. If Duke is able to capitalize on 3-point opportunities, get second chances offensively and keep the ball out of Walker’s hands, the Blue Devils will improve to 4-1 against Sparty in their fifth meeting at the prestigious early-season showcase. 


Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.



Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


Dom Fenoglio | Sports Managing Editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


Ranjan Jindal profile
Ranjan Jindal | Sports Editor

Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


Sophie Levenson profile
Sophie Levenson | Sports Managing Editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


Andrew Long profile
Andrew Long | Recruitment/Social Chair

Andrew Long is a Trinity senior and recruitment/social chair of The Chronicle's 120th volume. He was previously sports editor for Volume 119.

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