College basketball is back, and what better way to start it off then the Champions Classic. In the event’s 9th year, this is the first in which each of the four teams are ranked the four best in the country. This short tournament has a chance to be a historic start to the season.
The night at Madison Square Garden kicks off with the fourth ranked Duke Blue Devils versus the third ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Duke does not have the freshman talent it’s used to having, but there are some studs on Coach K’s squad. Cassius Stanley and Matthew Hurt will have immediate impacts. Most importantly, Duke is returning Tre Jones, who was one of the ACC’s most poised players last season as a freshman. With a year of experience under his belt, Jones could be a problem for the Jayhawk defense.
On the other side of the floor, Kansas has two of the Big 12’s premiere players in Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike. Bill Self is 3-0 against Duke in the Champions Classic, and with Kansas’ front court, he has a good chance to improve that undefeated record.
The second act is the classic’s third ever 1 versus 2 matchup, with first ranked Michigan State clashing against number 2 Kentucky. Michigan State is led by senior and preseason player of the year Cassius Winston. Tom Izzo has a decent recruiting class, but Winston will be the star, coming off an 18 point per game and final four season last year.
Kentucky is led by sophomore Ashton Hagans, and brings in star recruit Tyrese Maxey. Kentucky is 4-4 in the Classic, but first ranked teams are just 2-3, giving the Wildcats history in their side.
Michigan State 72
Photo creds: ESPNEvents