What We Learned About The Champions Classic Teams

We’re all thinking it, so I’ll go ahead and say it. That was the best Champions Classic since the event was created back in 2011. A double overtime thriller and a wire to wire nail biter highlighted the night of college basketball. Here is one thing we (or at least I) learned from last night’s games.

Kentucky – Tshiebwe Needs 35+ Minutes Every Game

Oscar Tshiebwe saw his first action of the season last night after missing the first two games recovering from a minor knee procedure. It looked like Coach Calipari wanted to try to ease him back in as much as the game would allow him. Well, the game didn’t allow him that luxury whatsoever.

After the dust settled in double overtime, the big man finished with 34 minutes of court time. For reference, he played just 10 regular season games last season where he saw 34 or more minutes, so Calipari threw the initial game plan out the window to try and win the game. He collected 22 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks in his time and was arguably the best Wildcat player in the game. Kentucky is a whole different team with him on the floor, and they need him to play as much as they can to have the most success.

Michigan State – Death, Taxes, and Sparty Overachieving

Tom Izzo has been the head man at Michigan State since 1995. Aside from his first two seasons, he has yet to miss an NCAA Tournament. He has led them to eight Final Fours and raised a championship banner in East Lansing. Winning is just what he does. Even when his team is projected to have a down year (compared to their standards), they always find a way to win games they shouldn’t.

A prime example of that was the performance they put on in last night’s Champions Classic. Kentucky came into the game as a seven point favorite, which likely would have been even higher had the odds makers known Tshiebwe was playing sooner. In true Spartan fashion, they hung around all game. In fact, they never trailed by more than seven points and held the lead on several occasions, including at the halftime break. A couple defensive lapses by the Wildcats gave MSU all the life they needed. They outscored Kentucky 15-6 in the second overtime to come out with a win. With games against Villanova and Alabama on the horizon, they have a real shot at having the best non-conference resume in the country.

Duke – Kyle Filipowski May Be The Best Duke Freshman Ever

Okay, that is probably an exaggeration and a clear recency bias, but he’s been good enough to at least raise the question this early in his career. The number four recruit in the country is the first Blue Devil freshman to have a double double in their first three games.

While he has been pretty inefficient shooting the ball (38 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the arc), his ancillary stats have been tremendous. His skill was on display last night against Kansas, as he collected 17 points and 14 rebounds. Granted, Duke clearly had the size advantage over a Kansas team that relies on athleticism more than size, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do with that advantage. With upcoming games against Delaware and Bellarmine, Filipowski has a real chance to extend the double double streak to at least five games.

Kansas – Jalen Wilson Is Ready For The Spotlight

Jalen Wilson was a fine complimentary piece in his first two years at Kansas, playing third fiddle to Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun. This year was his time to shine, and there were questions swirling around whether or not he would be able to carry an offense. Well, through three games he has done just that.

Coming into the season, Wilson had just seven 20 point games to his name. He already has two in the team’s first three games this season (with the third game being a 19 point outing). He is averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists so far in this young season. Not only is he showing that he can carry an offense, he is showing that he can carry an entire team. If he keeps this up, it would be hard to not pick him as Big 12 Player of the Year and a First Team All-American. Along with that, Kansas will likely be in line for a very good year.

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