6:44 – Finally, it’s time for the trio of main events.
Duke/Michigan State gets things started at 7 and will attract the majority of the night’s attention due to the fact that Coach K is looking to break Bobby Knight’s record for the most coaching victories in Division-I. Questions surround both teams as State is unranked and fell to North Carolina by 11, while Duke was pushed to the limit by Belmont at home, ultimately outlasting the Bruins by a single point.
The evening’s highest-profile game – at least in terms of national rankings – will be on the deuce at 8 when No. 3 Ohio State faces No. 10 Florida. It’s also one of the more intriguing personnel matchups we’ll see all year. The Gators have four guards who would start for just about any other team in the country, and Billy Donovan won't hesitate to throw the quartet out on the floor at the same time. And then there’s Ohio State, which has the unquestioned best big man in the game in Jared Sullinger. The sophomore is the lone lone returning first team All-American from last season and the near-unanimous choice for preseason Player of the Year. Obviously, the Buckeye offense runs through the middle.
I’m taking Duke by eight over Sparty, and Florida to spring a two-point upset over the No. 3 team in the country.
It doesn’t get much better than this as far as an evening of pre-new year’s hoops is concerned. Enjoy.
7:06 - Judging from that National Anthem, America does not, in fact, have talent.
7:16 - SHOT FAKE
Duke up, 6-4.
7:27 - Mason Plumlee called for a "contact technical foul" after a light shove (if you can even call it that). That call's only made because this is a nationally televised game at the beginning of the season and a message is trying to be sent. Totally absurd. No way that's called in February or March.
Sparty leads 13-9.
7:30 - Still blows my mind that college players refuse to step up to the college three-point line when playing on NBA floors. I don't know if it's a mental thing or a pride thing, but you'd think more coaches would make it a point of emphasis.
7:31 - Game is off to a very high-quality start with State on top 16-12.
7:39 - Quick ESPN commentating stat. References to the score of the game: 3. Number of Jay Bilas wasn't a great shooter jokes: 52.
7:42 - Andre Dawkins loves weird shots like I love nerd ropes. 20-20.
7:50 - Dawkins has hit three threes and leads Duke with 11 points. Blue Devils on top by a point. Bobby Knight has said "shot fake" at least 15 times. Not hyperbole.
8:00 - All tied up at 31 with a little over a minute to go. First game of the evening sesh (that's how I say it, "sesh") is living up to the hype so far.
8:05 - We are a go on Ohio State/Florida. This is great.
8:16 - Duke carries a one-point lead into the break. Andre Dawkins is your leading scorer with 14.
8:20 - Not earth-shattering insight, but Ohio State is going to have to prove it can shoot the three consistently without Jon Diebler if Sullinger's going to be able to do anything in the post against good teams.
8:27 - Very high quality of play right now. Florida up 21-18. Brad Beal is as good as advertised.
8:35 - No idea why or how this is happening:
If I'm pregnant, my life's over.
8:39 - Duke red hot to start the second half. Michigan State not. Blue Devils on top 50-40.
8:41 - So is WoJo just not looking for another job, or...?
8:43 - Blue Devils on a 12-0 run and Andre Dawkins has 22. Duke over State, 53-40. Sportswriters cautiously start working on the midsections of their Coach K pieces.
8:50 - Sullinger's increased mobility on full display as he buries a pretty turnaround jumper from the baseline. Bucks up by a point (33-32) with a minute to play in half one.
8:52 - Ohio State ends the half on a 17-11 run to go into the break up 35-32. Jared Sullinger leads all scorers with ten points.
8:53 - Meaningless light push? Technical. Obviously intentional knee to the face? Nuttin'.
9:02 - 61-43 Duke with nine minutes left. Game has gotten really physical. Media waiting for Coach K anointing. Fans waiting for Florida/Ohio State to come back.
9:06 - Annnddd Bob Knight has given up on the game.
Via Inside the Hall.
9:12 - Duke letting Sparty hang around a little bit. It's 63-50, Devils, but only five and-a-half to play.
9:14 - Ohio State runs out to its biggest lead of the night at 40-32. Florida all of the sudden can't buy one.
9:23 - Florida on the verge of letting this one get away. It's 48-37, Ohio State and the Bucks are in complete control. OSU looks good.
9:33 - Duke/Michigan State laboring towards the finish line with the Devils up six. Kentucky/Kansas set to tip at some point around 1 a.m. It's cool. I'm not tired or anything, though.
9:37 - They don't exactly do it in style, but Duke gets Coach K win No. 903 with a 74-69 victory over Michigan State. Now for the four-hour ceremony and robe-fitting.
9:47 - OK, I know bitched about the lack of commercial variety earlier, but the guy who does the voice of the car singing "Party Like a Rockstar" seriously deserves more work. Dude's a bonafied star. I feel almost as strong about this as I did about the guy who played Thanksgiving in one of the Guinness holiday commercials back in '05. Greatest actor of our generation.
9:59 - Credit Ohio State, they took control of this game in the final minutes of the first half and then never let go. I didn't think during the offseason that OSU belonged in any discussion with North Carolin and Kentucky, but the Buckeyes are very, very good.
10:07 - Ohio State wins it, 81-74. That's loss No. 2 for the kid.
Game Rating: 7 (both games)
Both started off tremendously but then tapered off right at the beginning of the second and stayed that way for most of the final 20 minutes.
Prediction Result: 10-2
This one hurt.
Consumption: 1 cough drop, 4 cinnamon rolls, 1 glass of milk
Still not sure how that happened.