Duke basketball: Five keys to victory in massive matchup against Illinois

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /

Another massive matchup awaits the Duke basketball team on Tuesday night against Illinois.

The ACC vs. Big Ten Challenge is coming to Durham as the Duke basketball team (2-1) will face Illinois (3-1) on Tuesday night.

Duke suffered a loss one week ago to then-No. 8 Michigan State, which was sandwiched between victories over Coppin State and Bellarmine.

The Blue Devils, who are now ranked at No. 10 in the AP Top-25 Poll, have not looked the part in their three games this season, but Mike Krzyzewski‘s team was overmatched and outhustled in its loss against the Spartans.

As for the Fighting Illini, who are No. 6 in the AP Poll, Brad Underwood‘s team came roaring out of the gates to start the season, winning its first two games against North Carolina A&T and Chicago State by a combined 121 points…Yes, you read that right, two wins by a combined 121 points.

Illinois defeated North Carolina A&T, 122-60, and Chicago State, 97-38.

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However, the Illini were brought back to earth with a too-close-for-comfort win over Ohio, 77-75, and then a loss against No. 2 Baylor, 82-69.

The most recent scheduled game for Illinois against the University of Tennessee at Martin was canceled because of COVID-19 positive tests within the Skyhawks’ program.

Entering Cameron Indoor Stadium, Underwood’s team has not played since its loss to Baylor back on Wednesday, December 2.

Duke basketball has a lot to figure out against Illinois

Despite harsh criticism from fans, Mike Krzyzewski was proud of the way his team battled against Michigan State, citing that a majority of his roster had never been in a game like that before.

Granted, the Blue Devils did return four players from last season, but it was an acceptable response from a coach that started three freshmen against the Spartans.

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But now comes the true measuring stick as those players have experienced a physical, veteran team and should perform better against Illinois.

If Duke wants to secure its signature victory of the early season, here are the five keys to victory.