The Blue Devils enter with nine McDonald’s All-American, while the Spartans bring just one – Branden Dawson.
"Coach Izzo mentioned to me that I'm definitely going to be playing a lot of positions,” Dawson said. “He said he wants me to be Superman in this game."
That will mean the Spartans see a performance out of Dawson similar to what he did after returning from a broken hand to average 15.7 and 8.1 with 68.1 percent shooting in seven postseason games.
But that performance has not been seen from Dawson early this season. Dawson scored 10 early against Navy in the Spartans’ win Friday, but was almost a non-factor in the second half as Trice took over to lead MSU.
"I don't know why he kind of in the second half, kind of disappeared, but at the same time, what I'm not as concerned about is practice after practice after practice he's done his job and he's done it pretty well,” Izzo said.
Playing Duke, however, figures to bring added motivation.
"I think it's definitely easier to get up for this game because it is Duke,” Dawson said. “We've been in this position many times, like last year playing against Kentucky when they were No. 1 and playing against a top five team in the country. I think it's easier to get up for this game because it's more excitement."
And in his fourth start in a Champions Classic, Izzo expects Dawson to play big.
"I think he'll play real well tomorrow and yet he's going to have to for us to win the game,” he said. "He is going to have to be very, very active in this game. I think he knows it. I think he has studied it. I think he understands it. Now he has to do it."