In tonight’s 2013 Champions Classic college basketballs elite talent will be on display at the United Center in Chicago. In the first game it will be the #1 team in the land Kentucky Wildcats facing off vs. #2 Michigan State Spartans. Then in the second game Coach K leads the #4 Duke Blue Devils vs. freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins and #5 Kansas Jayhawks.
#1 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan State
John Calipari has again assembled a National Championship caliber ball club. Kentucky lured six high school All-Americans and two other highly regarded recruits this off season. There are some who are deeming this Kentucky Wildcats team the best in recent memory. The Wildcats finished (38-2) in route to a NCAA National Championship a season ago. This conglomerate of freshman looked promising in its first two games vs. UNC-Asheville and Northern Kentucky. One of the nations top recruits Julius Randle out of Plano, Texas is averaging (22.5) points per game to go along with (14.5) rebounds per game. Randle also is surrounded by two other Texas natives “The Harrison Twins” Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Both are 6’6 wing players, Andrew Harrison is the facilitator, while brother Aaron can just flat out score ball. This years Kentucky team has the make up to repeat as champions, with Dakari Johnson, Marus Lee and James Young all which who were All-Americans as well.
Michigan State didn’t have a monster recruiting class, but there are nice pieces on this team. The Spartans are coming off of a 98-56 win over McNeese State. Sophomore guard Gary Harris scored (20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds) in the victory. Travis Trice a junior guard out of Huber Heights, OH scored (11 points and 8 assists) in the victory. Branden Dawson also a junior is a huge piece to this Michigan State team, he is a 6’6 wing player with a huge motor. Dawson scored (12 points and 12 rebounds), he also distributed 5 assists for Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo has a balanced attack with a nice mixture of talent and experience on this team.
X-Factor : Kentucky
James Young is going to be vital in tonight’s matchup versus Michigan State. He is a combined (5-18) shooting from the field over the last two contests. The Wildcats will definitely look to see more out of Young, who was one of six McDonald’s All- Americans recruited by Kentucky. John Calipari will look to get Young touches early on in this one; to boost the Freshman’s confidence and get him going.
X-Factor: Michigan State
Michigan State is going to need Adreian Payne to set the tone defensively. Payne needs (22) more blocks to become Michigan States all-time leader in blocks. Also he is very athletic big with a 7 foot 4 inch wing span, who can stretch the defense with his range and possesses an unstoppable jump hook.
#3 Kansas Jayhawks vs #4 Duke Blue Devil
The Kansas Jayhawks lost guard Ben McLemore to the NBA, now the future is freshmen phenom Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8 200 pound forward is projected to be the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft next year. So far in this early season Wiggins has not disappointed scoring 16 points on (5-9) shooting in his debut. He was named Naismith High School Player the year ,he is an all around scorer and a good long armed defender. There has not been this much hype for an incoming freshman in Kansas since Danny Manning in 1984. Coach Bill Self will have his troops ready for battle in Chicago on Tuesday night. The Jayhawks look to go (2-0) on the season after defeating Lousiana-Monroe 80-63 in the teams first regular season game.
Across the way stands another freshman sensation by the name of Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils. Parker who was a member of the McDonald’s All-American team, and in his debut against Davidson he poured in 22 points. Duke also brings back arguably the best backcourt in college basketball in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Cook who scored 21 points in the opener is one of the more seasoned players on this years team. He was named to third team All-ACC just a season ago, and finished second in the conference in assists (5.3). Sulaimon has all of the tools to become ACC Defensive Player of the Year this season. He is without a doubt of the best on ball defenders in the nation, that can defend up to three positions. The Blue Devils lost a lot senior leadership when Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly & Mason Plumlee who all made the leap to the next level. Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are favored to make a legit run at yet another national championship this season.
Andrew Wiggins will need to be everything he is projected to be tonight. In order for Kansas to win Wiggins will have to score in the mid-low 20′s. In his first game he only managed 16 points and that will not be enough against a high powered offense like Duke.
Duke has a lot of bright spots on this loaded roster, but tonight’s difference maker will be Rodney Hood. The 6’8 215lb forward who was selected a captain on this team will be an impact. Hood is an explosive leaper and fantastic finisher around the rim. He has the ability to stretch defenses because he has extended range; and has the combination of speed and strength to be a lockdown defender.
Kentucky vs. Michigan State: Kentucky
Duke vs Kansas: Duke