• Bryan Cunningham

Champions Classic Preview

After an eventful off-season, college basketball is finally set to return and in a big way. On the first night of the season, college basketball fans will be treated to big-time matchups, first featuring (3) Kansas and (4) Duke going head-to-head and 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game, (1) Michigan State and (2) Kentucky will battle it out.

Both games will be played at the Madison Square Garden in New York, with the first game set to tip at 7 p.m. on ESPN. I like Duke in the first matchup because of the combination of Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. Tre Jones ability to control the offense in the half-court and take care of the ball makes him a fantastic player, especially paired with a phenomenal talent down in the post like Carey Jr. Kansas will be lead by Sophomore Guard Devon Dotson and Senior Center Udoka Azubuike, both of which are great players, but I think at this time Duke’s duo is just better and I think Duke’s roster as a whole is better than that of Kansas. I expect Kansas to come out and play with high energy and a sense of urgency more so than usual, because of how much they were in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons throughout the off-season.

In the second matchup, I think that Michigan State will win. The difference in this game will be how limited Kentucky is with their big men. Nick Richards is a game-time decision and I expect Coach John Calipari to hold him out till he is able to get back to 100% with his ankle injury that he suffered in an exhibition game against Georgetown College. That leaves Kentucky with E.J. Montgomery and Nate Sestina as the only scholarship big men on the roster with added 6’9” Walk-on Ben Jordan who is a pitcher for the Wildcats’ baseball team. Montgomery played terrible in Kentucky’s two exhibition games and battled foul trouble throughout their second game against Kentucky State. I expect Cassius Winston to play a huge role in leading Michigan State to the victory even with Ashton Hagans tenacious defense.

I expect all four of these teams to make runs deep into March, as all of these programs have extreme talent and elite coaching. I think Kentucky will struggle the most out of the four teams throughout the season because of how loaded the SEC is and with how limited they are in the post, but Calipari always has his teams playing their best in March. I expect Michigan State to make the Final Four, and while each team’s fan base will have expectations of winning a National Championship, I think that Michigan State has the best chance to do so. Of course, this is all barring injuries and on the assumption that these teams perform to their expectations, but one thing is for sure and its that all eyes will be on the Champions Classic tomorrow night.



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