Tomorrow, college basketball is officially, all the way back. As has happened for the last few seasons, the season kicks off with The Champions Classic, which is a blue blood playground. Michigan State, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky play in rotating matchups, which this year happens to be Michigan State v Kansas and Duke v Kentucky. I will not use this opportunity to point out Villanova, who has won two of the last three championships, is not included in the Champions Classic. Instead, I will focus on the beauty and glory that is this event.
The front court matchup in game one
Kansas’ frontcourt, especially following the addition of Dedric Lawson, is the best front court in the nation and one of the best we have seen this decade. Lawson joins Azubuike and De Sousa in a front court that has depth, elite rim protection ability, and dynamic offensive ability.
Their first test of the year will be Nick Ward, a monster of a man who is big, strong and efficient. Ward will have his hands full with the revolving door of elite bigs, but watching him throw his 250 pounds around in the post will be really exciting.
Youthful battle in game two
Duke’s freshman wings, who I will talk about a bit more in depth a bit later, are the heart and soul of this Duke team. Still, they are only three of the seven freshmen or sophomores on the Duke roster. Similarly, and even more extremely, all but three of the players on Kentucky’s roster are either freshmen or sophomores. Early season games like this are a great indicator of what young players are going to be the motors that help their teams go.
For Duke, look out for the trio of Barrett, Williamson and Reddish. For Kentucky, watch sophomore Quade Green to see if he will be capable of being the offensive centerpiece. Also, Kentucky’s two highest recruits, Keldon Johnson and E.J. Montgomery, will probably be guarding the Duke freshman so we will get to see them battle directly on both sides of the floor.
Can Lagerald Vick take the reins from Devonte’ Graham
The revolving door of elite point guards continues in Lawrence as Lagerald Vick takes the reins from Devonte’ Graham, who took the reins from Frank Mason. Last year, the drop off was minimal and the Jayhawks rolled on as usual. This season, the drop off appears to be more so on paper, but the roster around Vick is also a lot better. Kansas is the best team in the nation, but we have learned Kansas goes as the guards go. Can Vick do it? Tomorrow night, we begin to answer that question.
Pick your poison with the Duke freshman trio
RJ Barrett. Cam Reddish. Zion Williamson. Remember those names. This Duke team is incredibly unique and dynamic everywhere. We have seen amazing recruiting classes in the past. Think about all those Kentucky teams. But, we have never seen a class with this kind of nonpositional, dynamic, pure athletes. Zion will more than likely jump out of the gym and have a dunk per game that breaks the internet. Reddish and Barrett are both better basketball players, but will be able to fly slightly under the radar because Zion is going to attract so much attention. Tomorrow night, we get to see how they will work together.