Previewing The Champions Classic

The Champions Classic is one of the best events of the college basketball season. Four of the top teams in college basketball history square off on the same night, making for a great display of an even better game. This year, Kentucky will take on Michigan State, followed by Kansas matching up with Duke.

Kentucky vs Michigan State

The Wildcats have won two of the three meetings against the Spartans in the Champions Classic. Two of the three games were close, decided by a combined 11 points. Those two games also featured the top ranked Wildcats taking on the second ranked Spartans.

While Michigan State isn’t as highly touted as they normally are, they are coming off of one point loss to second ranked Gonzaga. Tom Izzo always has his team ready to play, and I expect Tuesday night to be no different. I’ll be keeping my eye on the front court matchup, as Joey Hauser and Mady Sissoko will battle with Jacob Toppin and Chris Livingston. If the Spartan duo can control the paint, it will give them a chance to knock off the Wildcats.

Duke vs Kansas

The nightcap will feature two of the most successful programs in the history of college basketball, as Kansas and Duke renew their mini-rivalry. The Jayhawks won the first two meetings in this event before Duke took the most recent game in 2019. The three game were decided by a combined 15 points. In fact, there has been just one meeting between these two teams in the past three decades that has been a double digit game. I’m certainly not going out on a limb here, but don’t be surprised if this game comes down to the last couple of possessions.

Something interesting about this game will be the absence of both Coach K and Bill Self. Self will be serving the third of his four game suspension, while Jon Scheyer has taken over the coaching duties for the Blue Devils. It will be interesting to see how Scheyer and interim coach Norm Roberts handle their first big time games. On the court, I think the key matchups will once again be in the front court. Duke boasts two seven footers and another big man at 6’10”, while Kansas has just one player (getting meaningful minutes) that is taller than 6’9″. This game could come down to what wins out, Duke’s size or Kansas’ speed, because what the Jayhawks lack in length, they more than make up for with athleticism and quickness. This could very well give Gonzaga/Michigan State a run for game of the year in the early season.

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