Duke vs. Kentucky Preview
The Champions Classic, one of the premier regular season tournaments in college basketball, will feature two of the most prestigious programs in the nation as the fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils take on the second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
In this matchup, Duke's freshman freakshow will be on full display as the fearsome four of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones take the court for the first time in a collegiate game. The hype surrounding Duke's 2018 recruiting class has been unreal. No doubt, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has assembled one of the most talented teams in recent history for the Blue Devils.
For the Blue Devils, the offensive production should impress from this group of young players with Williamson, Reddish and Barrett all possessing excellent slashing abilities. However, a major issue for these three is three-point shooting with none of them being particularly dangerous sharpshooters.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the hardwood are the Kentucky Wildcats. Led by head coach John Calipari, the Wildcats sit comfortably with the number two recruiting class in the nation this year. Featuring talented freshmen Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, and Immanuel Quickley the Wildcats feature a fearsome foursome of their own.
Johnson will bring an excellent combination of scoring and defense to the Wildcats lineup. Meanwhile, Quickley is a tremendous defender and athlete possessing an excellent wingspan for a point guard and a dangerous first step off the dribble.
The key difference for both of these squads coming into this matchup is experience. Both teams are extremely youthful with only Kentucky having any significant returning talent in that of center Reid Travis and power forward PJ Washington.
Washington will have the best combination of skill and experience on the court for either team. Travis is also an absolute monster around the rim, utilizing his unique combination of size and athleticism to punish opponents in the low post.
The experience in the frontcourt will be huge for the Wildcats in this matchup as controlling the paint and the glass will be key for whoever hopes to win this matchup.
On the flip side Duke's size in the frontcourt remains a question mark. With Williamson most likely starting at the four spot it remains to be seen how the youthful forward will contend against a polished and experienced player like Washington. The Blue Devils will rely heavily on the offensive prowess of Barrett, Reddish and Williamson, who will no doubt possess an intriguing matchup for Quickley, Johnson and Washington.
As always, a game between the likes of Calipari and Krzyzewski always features talented players with even bigger spotlights. This season seems no different as Duke’s freshman freakshow looks to make noise throughout college basketball with their near constant highlight reel play.
However, the Kentucky Wildcats may just be able to humble the expectations of the Blue Devils to open the year with their talented mix of veteran players, lockdown guards and rim-protecting big men forming one of the most talented teams in the world of college hoops.
At the end of the night, Kentucky will use exactly that to defeat the Blue Devils in a close one 74-72 with Johnson and Washington making the difference for the Wildcats.
David Saggio is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.