Duke vs. Ohio State: Nothing but Respect Between Krzyzewski and Matta

| by Alex Groberman

As it turns out, the Duke Blue Devils versus Ohio State Buckeyes game scheduled for Tuesday night won’t get in the way of a love-fest between their respective head coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Thad Matta. Despite the fact that the upcoming showdown will have serious ranking implications for the No. 2 ranked Buckeyes and No. 3 ranked Blue Devils, all either coach could talk about recently was their mutual respect for the other.

Back in 2004, according to the Washington Post, Krzyzewski ran across Matta on the recruiting trail and instantly took a shine to him. On the heels of Jim O’Brien’s messy firing -- following some NCAA rule violations -- the coach with more wins than any other in college hoops recognized certain intangibles in Matta that he knew would lead him to success.

“After I got this job, I was recruiting and Coach K stopped me and said, ‘Hey, I really believe you’ve got one of the top jobs in the country,’” Matta said. “He said, ‘I’ve looked at Ohio State the past 25 years and I think you can win there.’”

That Krzyzewski eye for talent was proven right yet again when Ohio State reached the 2007 National Championship game, and remained a mainstay on the bigtime stage all the way up to last season’s 34-3 mark and Sweet 16 showing.

And now, all these years later, their respective teams will meet in one of the most highly-anticipated early season showdowns of the year.

Fresh off their latest Maui Invitational title one week ago -- and highlighted by a particularly exciting victory over the Kansas Jayhawks -- Duke will look to make a statement Tuesday night versus a very legitimate foe in Ohio State.

“When you’re in a dogfight like that and come out on top, you learn something about yourself,” guard and hero of that Kansas game Tyler Thornton told the Post. “We learned we can play tough. We feel like we can play with anybody in the country.”

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have shown no sign of taking their foot of the brake this season despite losing three seniors from last year. They are currently 6-0 with their lone victory over a ranked opponent coming over the then-No. 7 ranked Florida Gators.

Both Duke and Ohio State boast their fair share of exciting stars. Between the likes of Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly lighting it up for the Blue Devils and Jared Sullinger and William Buford putting on clinics for the Buckeyes – offensive firepower will be prevalent in this one.  

Duke vs. Ohio State tips off at 9:30 eastern time, Tuesday.

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