Tar Heels, Blue Devils face tough Challenge

May. 08, 2013 @ 07:27 PM

This year’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge offers something new for the Duke Blue Devils.
For the first time in the made-for-TV event, Duke and Michigan have been paired against one another.
The Wolverines, the 2013 NCAA Tournament runners-up, will play Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 3, event organizer ESPN announced on Wednesday.
North Carolina, after losing at Indiana this past December, will play on the road in the event for the second consecutive year when the Tar Heels visit Michigan State on Dec. 4.
N.C. State will play at home on Dec. 4 against Northwestern.
While Duke and Michigan haven’t played in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, it’s not as if the two programs are strangers to December meetings.
From 1989-2002, Duke and Michigan played annual December games on a rotating home-and-home basis. The most recent of that series had Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski coaching against his former player, Tommy Amaker, who was in his first season as Michigan’s coach.
Because of that, the series ended. Michigan and Duke have played five times since 2002, with three games on neutral courts, including Duke’s 73-71 NCAA Tournament win over Michigan in Charlotte on March 20, 2011.
This year’s game will be the first between the Blue Devils and Wolverines since Duke won 82-75 on Nov. 22, 2011, in the Maui Invitational.
Michigan hasn’t won at Cameron Indoor Stadium since Dec. 8, 1996, when the Wolverines took a 62-61 victory.
Duke holds a 21-8 lead in the overall series, having won nine of the past 10 meetings.
While Duke and Michigan haven’t met in the 15-year history of the Challenge, UNC will face Michigan State for the fifth time.
The Spartans won in the first two years of the event, in 1999-2000, while the Tar Heels took the meetings in 2008-09.
UNC has won six in a row against Michigan State, which includes three NCAA Tournament games — the 2009 final, the 2005 semifinal and the 2007 second round — and the first college basketball game to take place on an aircraft carrier, which served as the 2011 season opener.
While the Tar Heels were favored in most of those games, they likely will be the underdog this time against the Spartans, who were ranked third in ESPN’s most recent preseason Top 25 rankings.
Center Derrick Nix is the only starter who graduated from 2012-13 Michigan State team, which finished second in the Big Ten and lost to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. UNC must replace two starters, senior shooting guard Dexter Strickland and junior small forward Reggie Bullock.
The game at Michigan State likely will be the only major non-conference road game on UNC’s schedule this coming season. The Tar Heels are hosting Kentucky and Texas and will face reigning champion Louisville at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn., if both schools win their opening-round games.
The Tar Heels have made two previous trips to East Lansing, winning in 1976 and losing to the reigning champion Spartans in 2000.
An added twist to this year’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge is Northwestern’s visit to N.C. State. The game will mark former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins’ return to the Triangle as a head coach for the first time.
Collins took over the Northwestern program in March after the Wildcats fired Bill Carmody. It’s Collins first head coaching position, and his goal is to get Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.