East Lansing, MI – The Michigan State Spartans are 2-0 on the year with victories against Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame.
But now, the real competition begins as MSU travels to Durham, NC, to take on Duke.
Tuesday's game is the 17th meeting between Michigan State and Duke, but the Blue Devils hold a 13-3 all-time series advantage, including a 3-0 mark in the Champions Classic.
These two schools are competing for the fifth straight season, with Duke winning three out of four – the lone Spartan victory coming in an Elite Eight matchup in 2019.
Last season, the Blue Devils made the trip to East Lansing, defeating MSU 87-75.
"We got punched in the mouth ... now it’s our turn to return the favor," Izzo said.
Their resumes speak for themselves; it's easy to see why these two reside in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
A Look At Duke
There's not a big sample size for Duke this season in terms of what their team truly looks like as the Blue Devils' only game so far has been against Coppin State, an 81-71 home-opening victory (the contest vs. Gardner-Webb was canceled).
True freshman forward Jalen Johnson impressed in his debut, finishing with 19 points, 19 rebounds, five assists, and four blocks.
He seems to be a star in the making, but he'll have some competition.
D.J. Steward, another freshman, came off the bench scoring 24-points while grabbing nine boards.
"In Duke, it's a very young and talented team, but unlike a lot of years, they do have some experience," Izzo said.
Johnson started alongside Joey Baker, Jordan Goldwire, Matthew Hurt, and Wendell Moore Jr., four returning players.
While talented, Duke needs to clean up the 22 turnovers it committed in its season opener, especially seeing how Michigan State shut Notre Dame down defensively.
A Look At Michigan State
MSU won both contests against EMU and the Fighting Irish by double digits.
They exhibited a balanced scoring attack, with 26 assists on 30 baskets coming Saturday vs. Notre Dame.
Four players are averaging at least 10 points per game, led by Joey Hauser, a Marquette transfer (12.5 ppg).
Michigan State is 12th in KenPom and 8th in the AP Top-25 Poll – they also sit inside the top-10 for offensive efficiency; clearly, their defense was on high alert during a 26-0 run; too great of a lead for ND to overcome.
If the Spartans turn its latest defensive performance into a regular occurrence, it won't matter who they play, Duke or otherwise.
It's unfair to expect either of these teams to be perfect or in mid-season form this early.
And Michigan State winning at Duke is probably a reach, but MSU won't need to worry about a hostile environment.
"It will be different playing at Cameron without fans ... I think we have two of the best basketball fan bases, student bases, in the whole country, and it'll be different," said Izzo. "But it's still Cameron; it's still Duke."
It comes down to one matchup:
Can the Spartans perform at the level they need to slow Duke down offensively?
After what I saw last weekend, I believe they can and will, but it's close.