Nobody goes into Cameron Indoor Stadium expecting to come away with a win; 106 straight times opponents have invaded Cameron Crazies territory only to leave with a loss. That’s how long Duke’s non-conference home winning streak is, easily the longest active streak in college basketball. Now the Blue Devils are putting their streak on the line in the latest installment of the ACC/Big Ten challenge Tuesday night against the Michigan Wolverines.
Heading into this highly anticipated matchup, both Duke and Michigan have two losses on their early schedules. Duke has suffered two non-conference neutral-court losses to Top 25 opponents, Kansas and Arizona. Michigan’s losses have come to Iowa State and Charlotte. The Charlotte loss came in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship game. Both have something prove in their game slated for Tuesday night, yet only one of them can come away with a victory.
For Duke, the offense starts with freshman Jabari Parker. Parker leads the Blue Devils in both scoring and rebounding (23 points and eight rebounds per game). He, along with Rodney Hood, make a lethal 1-2 punch for Duke that few have found answers for this season. Duke is an extremely deep and talented team but have had problems protecting the rim against their opponents. Their penetration defense has been suspect at best and while they have a deep roster, none of it includes height. In the starting five, Parker is the Blue Devils’ center. Even though he’s 6-8, Parker plays more of a small forward role on the court, the position he’d be played in the NBA. He’s not the answer for the interior problems for Duke.
On the flip side, Michigan may have Duke exactly where they want them: coming off of a high-profile loss and without an identity or interior performance. Mitch McGary is slowly working his way back into the Wolverines’ starting rotation after missing most of training camp with a back issue. McGary brings a dominant inside presence for Michigan that can exploit the Blue Devil’s issues in the paint.
The x-factor in the game is likely to be Nik Stauskas, who worked all summer to bulk up physically and refine his overall game for his sophomore season. Stauskas is currently the one filling the void left by Tim Hardaway Jr. as Michigan’s driving, dishing, stroking and scoring off-guard. By contributing 20 points, four rebounds and three assists per game, Stauskas has started to insert his name into the “most improved player” discussion. He’s also shooting over 50 percent from the field and 47 percent from deep. The Wolverines go as Stauskas goes this season.
This game is huge for both teams. Each needs a marquee win over a highly touted, ranked, non-conference opponent before the full slate of conference games gets underway. While both of them will get another shot at it after their Tuesday meeting (Michigan hosts Arizona on Dec. 14 and Duke plays UCLA on another neutral court), scoring a victory this time around could propel them into the direction they want to go for the rest of the season.
The streak is on the line Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor. Talent will be on display for both sides and while Duke has the home-court advantage, Michigan is determined to walk away with the win. Stauskas, McGary and Glenn Robinson III may not be expected to win, but don’t be surprised if the Wolverines walk away with a victory. Michigan has exactly the type of team Duke has had problems with this season: a team with front court consistency and depth with scorers all over the court.
Parker may be the headline act, but it could come down to his likely matchup with McGary down low, a head-to-head that Parker would not be favored.