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Week One: BTP Game of the Week: Michigan State vs Duke

BTPowerhouse looks at the best games of the upcoming week in the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Kentucky vs Michigan State Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is back, and the Big Ten has a few great games mixed in with the usual cupcakes to open the slate. This post will cover opening night, Friday November 10th, through Tuesday November 14th.

Game of the Week:

-Duke Blue Devils vs Michigan State Spartans

The Champions Classic heads back to Chicago for its seventh annual set of games, featuring four of the premier programs in college basketball. November games don’t get any bigger than this: Michigan State and Duke will enter this matchup as the top two teams in the country.

The last time these two teams met in the Champions Classic, they would go on to face each other in the Final Four (interestingly, both games were played in Indianapolis, the first in the Pacers’ stadium, the second in the Colts’ stadium). Duke won both matchups that year (2014-’15) by a combined 30 points.

Last year, the Spartans were dressed down by a high-octane Kentucky team, but they hold a solid 3-3 record in the event overall. Both teams have tune-ups heading into this marquee matchup, but do not figure to be challenged until Tuesday.

Storylines abound: Grayson Allen’s Senior Soliloquy (can his opponents keep their balance this time around?), Miles Bridges’ title chase, four of the nation’s top ten freshman, and two of the best coaches in the history of the sport.

Will this game have much to tell us in March? Given Duke’s youth and Tom Izzo’s spring sorcery, probably not.

But it will be fun as hell to watch anyway.

Honorable Mention:

-Yale Bulldogs at Wisconsin Badgers

Put simply, Friday’s slate of Big Ten games are very bad. However, the games get better fast, led by an interesting matchup in Madison on Sunday.

The Badgers open their season against perennial punching bag South Carolina State on Friday night [see below], but get a quick test against a Yale team that gave Markelle Fultz a rude welcome to college last year, beating Washington in Seattle. Wisconsin projects as a borderline top-25 team this year, led by All-American Ethan Happ, who should dominate a Yale team that lacks size and experience in the frontcourt.

-Minnesota Golden Gophers at Providence Friars

The Gavitt Games, a poor man’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge contested between the Big Ten and a much-changed Big East, nevertheless offers some highly competitive matchups very early in the year. Last year, each of the eight contests ended with the teams within 12 points of each other.

The conferences have tied the Gavitt series 4-4 in each of its first two years. This year, Minnesota travels to Providence to open the series. Both teams are coming off early NCAA tournament exits with high expectations for 2018. KenPom gives the edge to Providence while the media has the Gopher’s pegged as the superior team.

A win for Providence would give them an early jump on their NCAA tournament resume, while a win for Minnesota would send a message to the rest of the Big Ten that they are for real.

Worst Game of the Week:

-South Carolina State Bulldogs at Wisconsin Badgers

As I alluded to above, there is a solid game in the Kohl Center Sunday. There’s also a pretty important football game in Madison this weekend. Only die-hard fans will go for the trifecta and see the opener against SCS too.

Season Stats:

Game of the Week Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State - 1

Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances by Team:

  • Minnesota - 1
  • Wisconsin - 1

Total Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State - 1
  • Minnesota - 1
  • Wisconsin - 1

Worst Game Appearances by Team:

  • Wisconsin - 1