CSU takes on the nation’s elite in their matchup vs. Duke

Bailey Bassett

The Colorado State men’s basketball team will face their toughest task in years. This Friday, the Rams are in Durham, North Carolina, to face the Duke University Blue Devils.

Duke has always been, and continues to be, one of college basketball’s most prestigious programs. Duke is ranked as the fourth-best team in the entire nation right now, and that ranking is sure to rise soon. They are coming off a thriller against Kansas that saw the Blue Devils win 68-66. Kansas was ranked higher than Duke as the third-best team in the nation before the matchup.

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Nico Carvacho (32) shoots from inside the paint
Nico Carvacho (32) shoots from inside the paint during the University’s exhibition match against Western Colorado University on Nov. 1. CSU won 79-41. (Devin Cornelius | The Collegian)

CSU is coming off an impressive win themselves. In their home opener against the University of Denver, the Rams comfortably won 74-63.

CSU looked solid all across the board. Nico Carvacho looked like his typical self, hauling in 11 rebounds to go along with his 10 points on efficient shooting. Kris Martin also showed out with 18 points of his own.

CSU has nine new players on the team this season. The significant roster turnover will give the team a new look but will also require some time to develop and gel. Newcomers Isaiah Stevens, David Roddy, Dischon Thomas and John Tonje all saw action in the first game. For CSU to succeed this season, those players must all play significant roles.

Duke lost stars Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett to the NBA draft, but roster turnover has never been a problem for a program that consistently produces professional-level talent and is always a threat to win the national title. Coached by legend Mike Krzyzewski, Duke always brings in talent through transfers and recruits and always improves their returning players’ talent.

Tre Jones is this year’s returning stud for Duke. Jones has NBA bloodlines and is a legitimate prospect for next year’s draft. The point guard is one of the best playmakers and assist maestros in all of college hoops.

CSU may not be able to stop him, but containing him and forcing him into uncomfortable spots will be key for the Rams. Jones played nearly the entire matchup against Kansas, and if he has a weak spot, it would be his 3-point shooting. If the Rams can force Jones into tough outside shots, Duke’s scoring total may go down, especially because this strategy limits Jones’ playmaking opportunities.

Blue Devil freshmen Wendell Moore Jr., Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey Jr. were all top 25 recruits in the nation and all shined at times in the opener. Duke, however, didn’t play a flawless game against Kansas. They only won by two points in a game that saw their opponent struggle with 28 turnovers. The Blue Devils struggled shooting from the free throw line, and costly mistakes like this can turn a game around.

Even so, this is going to be a tough one for CSU. They are strong underdogs and must keep their heads up no matter what happens. A win is highly unlikely for CSU, but the experience they gain from facing a team like Duke will be huge for their future.

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.

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