Champions Class Preview
Every year, the Champions Classic is the highlight of the annual ESPN Tip-Off Marathon that ushers in the season. The event this year will provide the same amount of hype and with the games being played in Madison Square Garden, the nation’s top teams are playing on the biggest of stages.
The games featured on ESPN could also be called the battle of the freshman as each of the four teams in the field have five-star freshman capable of dominating the game. This is especially true in the opening game of the night between Michigan State and Kentucky.
The Spartans lost their season opener to Arizona in the Armed Forces Classic on a Kadeem Allen buzzer-beater. Michigan State shot better from the floor, but committed 19 turnovers and shot 5-of-9 from the free throw line.
The debut of Tom Izzo’s best recruiting class did not disappoint as each freshman contributed nicely. Nick Ward, Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston all played less than 14 minutes, but were effective in getting the ball to open teammates or knocking down the open shot.
Miles Bridges was the clear star of the night as he scored 21 points and showed the nation why he will be a matchup problem in the Big Ten. He only made one of his six three point attempts, which he will have to improve against a loaded Kentucky team.
Every year, the Wildcats play in the Champions Classic and unveil a new crop of star freshman bound for the NBA after the season concludes and this year is no different. De’Aaron Fox runs the show for the Wildcats and paces them with 35 points and 15 assists through two games.
Malik Monk is a freakish athlete and has already put up highlight reel plays in only two games, while Edrice Adebayo has kind of struggled to control the paint thus far. Size is a concern for the Spartans, so look for Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and sophomore Isaac Humphries to control the glass.
The second matchup would offer much more intrigue if Duke’s freshman trio of Marques Bolden, Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles all slated to miss the game, but the Blue Devils still enter the game with great talent. Junior guard Grayson Allen is the leader of the team and is averaging 20.5 points per game this season.
His backcourt running mate is freshman Frank Jackson, who has had a terrific start this season with his 19.5 points per game. The experience of Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard give Duke a deadly combination.
The Kansas Jayhawks enter the contest with the best freshman in the country in Joshua Jackson, who struggled in his college debut. Jackson shot 3-11 from the field and finished with nine points and six rebounds.
He will need to contribute more than that for Kansas to win as point guard Frank Mason III cannot carry the team like he did against Indiana, when he went off for 30 points and nine assists. Carlton Bragg and Devonte’ Graham will also need to make healthy contributions as this Duke team is one of the best teams in the nation, even without their star freshman.
The Champions Classic is always a fun event to watch and this year should be no different.
Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.