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Champ vs. champ: Cal Poly Pomona takes on Duke

Duke has Coach K. So does Cal Poly Pomona, coached by Greg Kamansky.

The Blue Devils beat Butler in Indianapolis to win the national title. The Broncos also caught a sort of Hoosier hysteria, defeating Indiana (Pa.) last March in the biggest game in school history.

Beyond that, there are not many similarities between the defending Division I and Division II men’s basketball champions, who will meet at 4 p.m. PDT Thursday at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“They probably have four or five NBA players,” Kamansky said. “We don’t have too many of those walking around.”

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Not to fret, Broncos fans. It’s just an exhibition.

But the outcome is as predictable as Mike Krzyzewski’s hair.

Duke has already played one exhibition, thumping Division II stalwart St. Augustine’s by the gulp-inducing score of 141-68. Cal Poly Pomona players know they could be next.

“It’s a little intimidating,” Broncos forward Donnelle Booker admitted. “You don’t want to get handed an 80-point loss.”

At least Duke was nice enough to pick up the tab for Cal Poly Pomona’s travel expenses.

The Blue Devils have made a habit of scheduling the defending Division II champions in recent years, beating Barton College by 61 points in 2007 and Findlay by 36 last season.

Regular-season games between the defending Division I and II champions are rare. According to research conducted by the Cal Poly Pomona sports information office, the only meeting came when Ohio State defeated Evansville, 86-59, on Jan. 9, 1961.

Kamansky is glad this game won’t count, considering the talent Duke has amassed. Joining preseason All-American Kyle Singler and veteran guard Nolan Smith are highly touted freshman Kyrie Irving and impact transfer Seth Curry.

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“This could be one of the better teams they’ve had in a long, long time,” Kamansky said of the Blue Devils, the preseason No. 1 team in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls.

With three returning starters from the team that won a school-record 28 games, Cal Poly Pomona is ranked No. 1 by the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches. Not that any such ranking will help the Broncos endure what is widely considered the most hostile environment in college basketball.

“The Cameron Crazies are going to be hawking us, Googling everything they can find about us,” Booker said.

Is there any reason for Booker to worry?

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“I’m sure they’ll find some stuff,” he said.

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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