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Next Up - Tennessee State

The Tigers showed at NC State that they’re no pushovers.

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at UNLV
Dec 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Frank Jackson (15) knocks the ball away from UNLV Runnin' Rebels forward Christian Jones (20) during a game at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is Tennessee State and while a lot of people will focus on whether or not Harry Giles will play, that’s exciting to think about but don’t overlook this team. Tennessee State is dangerous.

State nearly learned that the hard way just over a week ago as the Tigers took the Pack to overtime before falling 67-55.

Tennessee State has played a good but not great schedule, competing against UC Davis, Northern Arizona, Santa Clara, Middle Tennessee, Canisius, someplace called Reinhard (don’t judge), Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, NC State, Alabama State and, now, Duke.

This is a team with a lot of experience too - eight upperclassmen.

They run about an eight-man rotation. Ken’Darrius Hamilton is big enough to hurt someone - the junior is 6-9 and 275. Christian Mekwolu, a sophomore from Nigeria, is 6-9 and 240.

Wayne Martin, a 6-9 senior from Brooklyn, is the leading scorer at 12.6 ppg. He also averages 10.2 rpg. Tahjere McCall, a 6-5 senior from Philly, averages 12.1 ppg and 5.6 rpg. He's also the best distributor and the key to the team.

McCall is a transfer from Niagara. Aside from everything else, he was also the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player Of The Year last season.

He’s got a lot in common with Matt Jones and probably knows Amile Jefferson pretty well from their days in Philly.

His coach, Dana Ford, said this: “He’s really helped change our program, he’s such a winner, he’s very competitive, he plays extremely hard, has a very high basketball I.Q., awesome kid, great student.”

Jordan Reid (6-4 senior, 10.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Darreon Redick

Delano Spencer (6-4 junior, 7.8 ppg) and Armani Chaney 3.0 ppg) round out the rotation along with Mekowulu (5.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg).

And don’t forget that the OVC, like the MAC, is a vastly underrated conference. Just look at the troublemakers it rolls out on a regular basis: UT-Martin, Murray State, Austin Peay, Southeast Missouri State, Eastern Kentucky, Belmont, Morehead State and now, Tennessee State.

This is an experienced team from a basketball oriented conference and they’re not likely to be intimidated.

Tennessee State is not going to roll over just because it’s Duke in Cameron. The Blue Devils will be favored but they’ll have to earn it.

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