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Game Preview and Open Thread - #8 Auburn vs. #1 Duke

Well folks, it’s the matchup we’ve all been dreaming about.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Auburn Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Tuesday November 20

Opponent: #1 Duke Blue Devils

Location: Lahaina Civic Center, Lahaina, Hawaii

Time: 7:00PM

Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network

What an incredible opportunity for Auburn sports this week!

Forget Auburn history, but when’s the last time any school has done that?

I told you guys that yesterday wasn’t going to be easy. Give the Musketeers credit, they thwarted every attempt Auburn made to put the game out of reach in regulation. In the end though, Jared Harper’s offense and Horace Spencer’s defense was the difference in Overtime as the Tigers were able to survive and advance in this tournament. But after Auburn’s 88-79 Overtime win over Xavier, they have a monumental challenge in front of them. None other than the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils. This has been a dream matchup for Auburn fans and me personally for quite some time.

On October 26, 2016, this tournament field was announced and ever since, I’ve been dreaming of an Auburn-Duke matchup. My first exposure to College Basketball was at Cameron Indoor Stadium to watch a Duke Basketball game and they were the reason I fell in love with the sport. Having said that, this game is a HUGE deal for me personally.

The Tigers will look to beat Duke for the first time in program history. They will also look to end Duke’s undefeated run in the Maui Invitational. This is Duke’s 6th appearance in the tournament and they won all 5 of their previous attempts, plus a 90-64 decision against San Diego State yesterday. Auburn is 0-3 in 3 all-time meetings against the Blue Devils but the last matchup was December 30, 1981, a 72-71 Duke victory. That game took place in Mike Krzyzewski’s 2nd season at Duke. This year is his 39th season at Duke.

Get to Know Duke.....

If you want to learn more even more about Duke, check out our Q&A posted earlier this morning with the radio voice of the Duke Blue Devils.

There are so many superlatives to describe how good this Duke team is but bottom line, is that they’re really good. Anyone that caught a glimpse of this team destroying Kentucky on Opening Night could see that. They start 3 forwards, a center and a guard and will have a big size advantage on Auburn tomorrow night. They are led by a trio of phenomenal freshmen in Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. Just to give you an idea of the ability of Zion, I present this..

The height that Zion got on that dunk is simply ridiculous. He’s a 6’7”, 285 pound guy, that will have his way in the paint throughout the season. Not only is he an excellent dunker, but he’s shooting 74% from the field this year. Next up is RJ Barrett, last year’s #1 overall prospect coming into college. The Canadian is the godson of basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash and he leads Duke averaging 24 points a game so far this season. Then there’s Cam Reddish, who on most teams would be the best player, but gladly and willingly plays 3rd fiddle to Williamson and Barrett. Reddish is a 44% 3-point shooter so far this year. Other role players on this team include a fourth talented freshman, Tre Jones, who leads this team at the point guard spot. Off the bench, Australian Jack White has come into his own this year as a strong bench contributor along with fellow team captain Javin DeLaurier. This Duke team is full of weapons and Auburn has quite the challenge on their hands tomorrow night trying to slow this team down.

What to Look for from Auburn...

It’s Youth vs. Experience tomorrow night and Auburn has the experienced players on their roster. But as far as big games go, this is the highest profile matchup that Auburn has ever faced. It’s been a minute since Auburn Basketball was featured on ESPN in a primetime game but that’s what they’ve got tonight. Quite frankly, it was one of Coach Pearl’s goals when he came to Auburn in 2014, getting Auburn to play on these stages. There’s no doubt that Coach Pearl will have his guys motivated and ready to play in this one. This is the opportunity that the Auburn players have waited for and now the ball is in their court to show the country what Auburn Basketball is all about. The Tigers will most certainly have to shoot the 3-ball better tonight than yesterday, when they were just 11-35 from 3-point range. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown combined for 51 points yesterday but both played more than 40 minutes. How much will they have in the tank after their performance against Xavier? I think for Auburn to have a shot in this one, one of Harper and Brown will both have to score 25 again. Can Auburn force the young Blue Devils into uncharacteristic turnovers? Duke turned the ball over 15 times in their game yesterday and on average, the Tigers are forcing 20 turnovers a game so far this year. Next, can Auburn get the ball inside and get Zion Williamson in foul trouble? San Diego State tried to do that but they couldn’t slow the rest of the team down. Despite playing the Aztecs tempo in the first half, Duke still reeled off 49 first half points. Also, how tightly will the game be called? Auburn was in serious foul trouble yesterday and both Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore fouled out of yesterday’s game. Overall, the floor will be filled with NBA talent from both schools and I personally can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Score Prediction

I’m going to be honest with every single one of you: my realistic expectation for this game is to hope that Auburn can keep this thing a game (within 3-4 possessions) for 34-35 minutes, and have a chance in the last 4-5 minutes. This game is a litmus test to see where the program is and how it matches up with one of the best all-time programs in College Basketball. It’s an opportunity for guys that were overlooked by blue blood programs to show how good they are. Ultimately, I just think Duke has too many weapons on offense for Auburn to slow down, especially if they end up in foul trouble as they did yesterday. I think this will be a highly entertaining game but I picked Duke to win the tournament and so I’m going to stick with that prediction.

Duke 87 Auburn 77