Duke-Ohio St. Preview

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is not only a great

evaluator of talent, but he can spot a sleeping giant of a program

as well.

So, the fact that his No. 3 Blue Devils (7-0) will face No. 2

Ohio State on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is really no

surprise to the all-time winner in men’s Division I basketball.

He made the prediction that the Buckeyes could become a power

when he ran across Ohio State coach Thad Matta on the recruiting

trail in the summer of 2004, shortly after Jim O’Brien was fired

for violating NCAA rules.

”After I got this job, I was recruiting and Coach K stopped me

and said, `Hey, I really believe you’ve got one of the top jobs in

the country,”’ Matta said. ”He said, `I’ve looked at Ohio State

the past 25 years and I think you can win there.”’

The Buckeyes did, reaching the 2007 national title game before

losing to Florida and recording a 34-3 record last season while

reaching the Sweet 16 for a second straight year.

Ohio State lost three seniors from that team but it hasn’t

showed. The Buckeyes are 6-0, though the only ranked team they have

faced was then-No. 7 Florida on Nov. 15, a team they defeated,

81-74.

Meanwhile, Duke is coming off wins over No. 15 Michigan (82-65)

and No. 14 Kansas (68-61) en route to the Maui Invitational title

last week.

”When you’re in a dogfight like that and come out on top, you

learn something about yourself,” Blue Devils guard Tyler Thornton

said. ”We learned we can play tough. We feel like we can play with

anybody in the country.”

The Buckeyes have relied on 2011 national freshman of the year

Jared Sullinger (18.8 points per game, 10.7 rebounds), William

Buford (17.7 ppg) and Aaron Craft (9.2 ppg, 33 assists, 21 steals)

while developing chemistry with a young team.

”You can’t give (Sullinger) easy ones,” Duke forward Mason

Plumlee said. ”You’ve got to stay between him and the basket.

You’ve got to be physical. He’s a good free-throw shooter, so you

can’t foul him; you can’t bail him out with fouls.

”You just got to keep him off the glass.”

Duke spreads its scoring around. In fact, five players – Seth

Curry, Ryan Kelly, Austin Rivers, Mason Plumlee and Andre Dawkins –

average double figures.

”Duke is a good defensive team, a great basketball team

overall,” Sullinger said. ”Coach K. is a great coach and he

always has his teams ready for games like this.”

No one knows that better than first-year Ohio State video

coordinator Greg Paulus, who played for Duke from 2006-09.

”It’s fun watching (Duke) on film because they play so hard,

they share the ball,” he said. ”As a college basketball fan, they

play the right way.”

More than 19,000 fans will pack Value City Arena for this one,

and students have camped outside the building for several days with

a fervor usually reserved for football games.

”With the Florida game, we thought it was loud,” Sullinger

said. ”Imagine all the hype coming into this game. It’s going to

be a very loud gym.”