The Champions Classic consisted of the top four teams competing against each other at Madison Square Garden.
The first game was #3 Kansas vs. #4 Duke. Although the game went down to the wire, Duke won the game 68-66. The first half was sloppy for both teams, but each team stepped it up in the second half. Kansas had 28 total turnovers in the game. Not many people expected the #3 team in the country to turn the ball over the way that they did.
Kansas was led by their guards most of the game. Devon Dotson led the Jayhawks in scoring with 17 points. Silvio De Sousa only played seven minutes which was a bit of a surprise. Four star freshman forward Jalen Wilson only played two minutes. Kansas will need more from their bigs and bench as the year goes on but they competed and showed they could play with a top 5 team early in the season.
Duke was led by sophomore guard Tre Jones, who had 15 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. Jones scored the final 6 points for the Blue Devils including 4 clutch free throws. It’s pretty clear that he is the leader of this team. Matthew Hurt, Vernon Carey Jr., and Cassius Stanley all scored double digits for the Blue Devils. All three freshman started for Duke. The Blue Devils did not get much inside the paint from their big men. Usually, your point guard is not the team leader in rebounds. But Duke showed that they were mature and had lots of leadership on their team.
The second game of the night was #1 Michigan State vs #2 Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Michigan State 69-62. The score doesn’t show it but this game was decided in the final minute as well. This game was less sloppy then the Duke-Kansas game.
Michigan State was led by Cassius Winston, who had 21 points and 4 assists. Aaron Henry played well for the Spartans. He scored 9 points and played great defense throughout the night. Michigan State’s big men had issues finishing around the basket. The Spartans could definitely use Joshua Langford to make things easier for Winston. But this is the usual for Tom Izzo, start the season off against tough opponents to help his guys with playing against competition as the season goes on.
Kentucky was led by Tyrese Maxey, who had 26 points and 2 assists. Maxey is just a freshman and looked like the most talented player on Kentucky’s roster. Kentucky looked like the best team of the four teams who played in the Champions Classic. The wildcats have a few veteran big men with some young talented guards. As of right now, I believe Kentucky is the best team in the country.
Both games in the Championship Classic were close and came down to the final moments. Following Kentucky’s performance against Michigan State, I believe they should jump up to the number one ranked spot.