The 2018 Champions Classic will help kick off the college basketball season on Nov. 6. It always features great teams in Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State. This year is no different, although the hype for the games this year might be unmatched. Here is the 2018 Champions Classic preview.
Kansas Jayhawks vs. Michigan State Spartans
The first game of the doubleheader will feature Kansas and Michigan State, two top 10 teams. Both teams lost key players from last year, but have retooled their rosters to be Final Four contenders once again. While it isn’t the headlining game, this one is still a great early-season matchup.
Kansas will still be figuring out their rotation for this game, as they have a lot of talent, but players who are new to the team. Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike are the returnees to the starting lineup. Vick will need to lead the team as the only senior on the roster. Azubuike will be asked to protect the rim against some talented Michigan State bigs.
Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes will be the two players for Kansas expected to score at a high rate other than Vick and Azubuike. Lawson is a proven college scorer from his time at Memphis. Grimes is a heralded recruit, who has great athleticism.
Cal transfer Charlie Moore or freshman Devon Dotson will be asked to run the point guard spot. If they don’t protect the ball and execute the Jayhawks could be prone to an upset. Kansas has been spoiled with great point guards over recent years in Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason. These players don’t have to be those guys, but need to defend well and run the offense.
The Jayhawks will win this game if Grimes and Lawson each score in double figures and Azubuike protects the paint. Michigan State is talented, but Grimes and Lawson can take advantage of some defensive inefficiencies on the wing. Azubuike will be tasked with not allowing Michigan State to score any easy baskets.
Michigan State Spartans
Although Miles Bridges is in the pros, the Spartans have Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward returning. Winston will be tasked with running the offense well and setting up his teammates. Langford’s role requires him to knock down outside shots and defend well. Ward is a good inside scorer and rebounder that will have to pass out of any double teams.
Other key players Matt McQuaid and freshman Marcus Bingham. McQuaid will stretch the floor with his shooting. Bingham will help Ward on the inside, but can also step out and hit shots.
If Michigan State wins this game, it will be because of Winston taking advantage of the Jayhawks’ new point guards. Winston will need to score and assist in double figures, while protecting the ball for this to happen. For the Spartans Winston’s play will help decide the outcome.
Duke Blue Devils vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Duke Blue Devils
Duke brings in one of the best-recruiting classes in recent memory with Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett being the key names. The offensive games are all known about these players. Williamson is athletic and great near the basket. Barrett and Reddish can get to the basket and shoot. The question will be if they can be set up for open shots and their defense.
Tre Jones will run the point and although he doesn’t have the best shooting stroke, is an old-school point guard who will set up his teammates. The Blue Devils don’t have many options at point, so he’ll need to play well and stay out of foul trouble.
Alex O’Connell will need to shoot off the bench. Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier may not be in the headlines, but they’ll be asked to do the dirty work protecting the paint and rebounding.
Jones will be asked to do a lot as a freshman in his first ever game. If he can knock down a few open shots and help keep the floor spread for the athletes on Duke’s squad, the Blue Devils will win the game.
Kentucky has a good mix of returning talent and recruits this season, which makes them a national contender. P.J. Washington and Nick Richards return on the inside with the ability to score and rebound. Richards has added value as a rim protector. Reid Travis will join them and as the most experienced player on the court for this game, will be asked to play like it. E.J. Montgomery gives the Wildcats some versatility as an inside-out player, which could be useful against Duke.
The guard spot has a few good players in Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans and Quade Green. Quickley will be asked to get to the basket and assist his teammates. Hagans is going to be asked to pressure the ball and force turnovers, while Green will need to help keep the floor spread with his shooting.
The wings offer athleticism in Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson. Herro adds a great shooter to the team as well. They will have a tough matchup specifically in this game with all of Duke’s talented wings.
Defense will be the most important thing for Kentucky in this game. Hagans, Quickley and Green need to pressure the Duke ball handlers, since they don’t have many. Richards, Travis, Montgomery and Washington will have to protect the paint. Herro and Johnson will have to stop the dribble penetration from the Blue Devil wings. If they can limit what Duke is able to do offensively, Kentucky will win the game.
For more news and updates go to our college basketball page!