Friday, November 18th, 2011

Preview Champions Classic : Duke and Michigan State : Kentucky and Kansas

Published on November 15, 2011 by Scott Shirley   ·   1 Comment

The inaugural Champions Classic features four of the best programs in the history college basketball. Game one will feature Michigan State and Duke, with coach K going after career win 903 to make him the all the wins leader in college basketball. The second game will feature two blue bloods in college basketball Kansas and Kentucky. Below I give my predictions on the two games.

Michigan State played very hard against the number one team in the country in UNC. They were a force on the glass especially on the offensive glass. Problem was the reason why the Spartans got so many rebounds because they shot the ball horribly on offensive they couldn’t by a three. Duke was tested by a good Belmont team in there first game. I think the Spartans well out play the Blue Devils upfront, but the difference in this game will be the guards. I like Duke’s guards a whole lot better with Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins. In the end their ability to shoot the three will be the difference. Duke- 65 Michigan State-60

Kentucky and Kansas features two coaches who met in the 2008 championship game but John Calipari was the head man at Memphis. In that game Kansas won in overtime. This years Kansas team is a lot different than years past teams. They do not feature the talent they have had in previous years. They really only have two elite players in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Kentucky has a handful of talented players. Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb lead the way for the Wildcats, while they have three of the best freshman in America in Anthony Davis, (Marquis Teague, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I always say the team with more talent usually wins and that will be the case here. Kentucky –72 Kansas -62

Below are my season previews for all four teams Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Kentucky


Coach: John Calipari (Two seasons at Kentucky 64-12). Overall 509-152, 19 years

2010-11: Record: 29-9 overall, 10-6 in SEC (2nd, East)

Starters Returning (2) Terrence Jones, Darius Miller

John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats made the final four last season with a six-man rotation. Now 3 of those players are gone and once again Calipari brings in the nation’s best recruiting class. Power forward Terrence Jones (15.7 ppg) does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats. He led Kentucky in rebounds and blocks, and almost led them in steals. Jones can also shoot the three. Joining him in the frontcourt will be the best true freshman in the country Anthony Davis. Davis has guard like skills as a big guy. Providing the depth in the frontcourt will be Eloy Vargas (1.5 ppg) and another highly thought of freshman Kyle Wiltjer. Darius Miller (10.9 ppg) is a deadly shooter at small forward. Backing him up will be another talented freshman Michael Kidd Gilchrist. He is very athletic and should see some time and power forward also. Kentucky will have another talented freshman point guard in Marquis Teague. Teague is real quick and can get to the rim; he needs to work on his shooting. Doron Lamb (12.3 ppg) will be the man at shooting guard. He almost shot 50 % from three last season. Depth at guard could be an issue. Leading the way is Mississippi State transfer Twany Beckham; he won’t be eligible until the second semester. Guard Stacey Poole might transfer away from Kentucky.


Coach: Bill Self (Eight seasons at Kansas 237-46), overall 441-151, 18 years

2010-11: Record: 35-3 overall, 14-2 in Big 12 (1st)

Starters Returning (1) Taylor

Last year was supposed to be the year for Kansas, now they have lost 7 players from last year’s team. This will be Kansas head coach Bill Self’s hardest coaching job, but this is still Kansas. They only have 8 scholarship players thanks to 3 freshmen being ineligible. Tyshawn Taylor (9.3 ppg) led Kansas in assists last year; he is very steady at the point, but he will need to score more. Elijah Johnson (3.4ppg) will also likely start in the backcourt; he has the talent to do more. The backups here will be two freshman Naadir Tharpe and Mervyn Lindsay. They should both get a ton of playing time. Travis Releford (3.7 ppg) will start at small forward, again he has the talent, but must prove it. Thomas Robinson (7.6 ppg) will lead the way down low. Robinson will have a big year as his minutes go up. He was a very productive rebounder. Jeff Withey (2.3 ppg) will get the job at center; he has great size. Providing the depth will be Kevin Young, a Loyala Marymount transfer and Justin Wesley. Jamari Traylor, Ben McElmore, and Braeden Anderson, all freshman are all ineligible for this up-coming season.  This was a huge blow in terms of depth wise.


Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (31 seasons at Duke 827-225), overall 900-284, 36 years

2010-11: Record: 23-11 overall, 9-7 in ACC (2nd)

Starters Returning (3) Curry, Plumlee, Kelly

The Blue Devils lost their three best players, and they don’t have a player returning who averaged double figures in points, but still Duke reloads. Their best player will be a freshman, guard Austin Rivers. Rivers can do it all from shooting threes to driving to the rim, but can he handle the pressure? Joining Rivers in the backcourt is Seth Curry (9.0 ppg), who is a deadly shooter.  He will likely handle the point guard duties this season.  Andre Dawkins (8.1 ppg) is another great shooter off the bench and Tyler Thornton is an adequate back up at the point. The Duke frontcourt needs to be tougher if they want to be an elite team, but they have the talent. Mason Plumlee (7.2 ppg) is the man in the middle, while Ryan Kelly (6.6 ppg) can shoot for a big guy. Miles Plumlee (4.8 ppg) provides a great spark off the bench for Duke. Besides Rivers, Duke also brings in 4 talented freshmen. Small forward Alex Murphy should getting some quality playing time with Kyle Singler gone. Yes, another Plumlee, Marshall, will help in the frontcourt. Point guard Quinn Cook could also get a lot of playing time, and same goes with Michael Gbinjie.

 Michigan State

Coach: Tom Izzo (16 seasons year at MSU 102-76)

2010-11 Record: 19-15 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (Tie/4th)

Starters Returning (2) Draymond Green, Keith Appling

Michigan State had a very disappointing year, but hey Tom Izzo always does well in the underdog role, this team does not have the talent of past Michigan State teams. Draymond Green (12.6 ppg) is the Spartans’ best player; he is a very versatile player. He can do it all; he even averaged 4 assists a game. The Spartans took a big blow when Delvon Roe decided to end his career because of injuries. Derrick Nix (2.7 ppg) and Adreian Payne (2.5 ppg) will battle for the starting center job; these two need to play to their talent level. Alex Gauna, a redshirt freshman might also get some playing time. Look for talented freshman Branden Dawson to start at small forward. Senior Austin Thornton (2 ppg) will also see time here. Leading the way in the backcourt will be the next great Spartans point guard Keith Appling (6.4 ppg). With more playing time he will put up better offensive numbers. Joining him in the backcourt will be Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood (16.7 ppg). This transfer was huge for the Spartans because they are lacking experience here. Freshman Brandan Kearney and Travis Trice will provide depth in the backcourt. Kearney has the most talent. Redshirt freshman-shooting guard Russell Byrd will also help.

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