In an action-packed ACC-Big Ten Challenge, one of the most exciting matchups features two top-10 teams as the No. 6 Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1) will take on the No. 10 Duke Blue Devils (2-1). Duke will host this one at the Cameron Indoor Stadium, and there will be plenty of fireworks as these two dominant squads square off.
Both of these teams have recently suffered losses to other top-10 teams. For the Illini, it was an 82-69 loss to the No. 2 Baylor Bears. After keeping it close for the first three quarters of the game, the Bears finally wore down the Illini to pull away. In the loss, guard Ayo Dosunmu led the way with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
For Duke, it was No. 4 Michigan State that did them in. The final was 75-69 in last Tuesday’s matchup. In the loss, forward Matthew Hurt led the way with 21 points and 13 rebounds. They did bounce back nicely, though, as they beat Bellarmine on Friday, 76-54.
The Duke Blue Devils come in as the favorites playing at home. The spread currently features them -4 while the over/under for total points is 147.5.
Illinois Looks For Road Upset
While Illinois may not be a team that has consistently been in the top-10 year in and year out, anyone that watched them play last year would have known they could be special this year. With returning stars like Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, it is no wonder why they are currently a top-ranked team and a matchup nightmare for most teams.
One area of strength thus far has been from behind the arc. They currently rank 50th in the NCAA in threes per game, averaging 9.2. In terms of three-point percentage, they rank 10th overall as they are shooting 45.1% from the three.
While the Illini have four players averaging double digits, it is Ayo Dosunmu leading the way. In four games, he is averaging 23.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game.
The other double-digit scorers include Adam Miller (14.5 points, 2.3 rebounds), Kofi Cockburn (13 points, 9.8 rebounds), and Andre Curbelo (10 points, 3.3 rebounds).
One of Illinois’ biggest strengths is their depth as they also have Trent Frazier (9 points, 4 rebounds), Giorgi Bezhanishvili (7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds), and Da’Monte Williams (7 points, 7.8 rebounds) that have chipped in this year.
Duke Hoping To Use Home Advantage To Get Back On Track
Illinois is not the only team with loads of talent as Duke consistently puts together a stellar squad, and this year is no exception. Led by returnees Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore, the Blue Devils once again look to compete for a national championship.
Through three games, Matthew Hurt leads the way with 19 points on 54.1% shooting from the field. He also is averaging 8.7 rebounds and 1 assist per game.
For Moore, he has gotten off to a little bit of a slower start averaging 6.3 points and 3 rebounds, but he has others around him that have picked up the slack.
Most notably has been freshman forward Jalen Johnson. In the opening win against the Coppin State Eagles, Johnson went off for 19 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 assists. While that production will be tough to maintain, he is currently averaging 13 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks through three games.
Also contributing to the Blue Devils are guard DJ Steward (11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists) and forward Jaemyn Brakefield (8 points, 3.7 rebounds).
Taking Illinois And The Points
This is one of those games where you can just sit down, grab some popcorn, and enjoy two of the best young teams in the nation battle it out with one another.
In terms of a winner, this one could go either way. Both can put up points in a hurry, but both have also shown that they can give away points with turnovers.
Obviously, Duke gets a bit of a boost playing at home, but this still is a matchup that truly could go either way depending on what team gets hot down the stretch. With the potential for a battle down to the wire, I feel inclined to take the team getting spotted the points. I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you took Duke, but for my money, I am taking the Illini and 4 points.