All eyes turn to Chicago Tuesday night, as college basketball provides fans with one of the marquee matchups of the year just days into the regular season schedule. No. 4 Duke takes on No. 5 Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic, pairing two of the nation’s top freshmen at the United Center.
While you can point to all the history and prestige surrounding both programs, tonight’s game really comes down to Jabari Parker versus Andrew Wiggins, and if you aren’t familiar with these two names, just take a look at the 2013 recruiting rankings.
Parker returns home for his second collegiate game. The 6-foot-8 forward, who attended the same high school as Derrick Rose, finished with 22 points (in 23 minutes), six boards and shot 3-of-3 from downtown in the Blue Devils’ season opener against Davidson.
Wiggins was widely hailed as the top recruit this year. The former Gatorade National Player of the Year has a nice stroke from downtown, the ability to play several positions and the explosiveness to make highlight reel dunks.
Both players will be lottery picks at the next level. While analysts continue to debate who will be the better pro, this game could at least put the winner ahead in the discussion.
But both teams are loaded with talent aside from the two freshmen stars. Preseason All-ACC forward Rodney Hood shot 90 percent from the floor in the opener, scoring 22 points and grabbing nine boards. Junior point guard Quinn Cook dished out eight assists to go with his 21 points. Duke’s roster took a hit after the 2012-2013 season with players heading to the NBA, but it shouldn’t be surprise to anyone that Mike Krzyzewski still wields a roster capable of finishing in the top 10 once again.
For Kansas, sophomores Andrew White III and Perry Ellis, who each chipped in with 12 points in their first game, will continue to be relied on to score. Joel Embiid, the Jayhawks’ 7-foot center from Cameroon, is raw, but he put in a nice showing with 11 points and nine rebounds to start. He also committed four fouls in 11 minutes (hence the raw attribution).
Kansas also has Memphis transfer Tarik Black in the starting lineup. The senior never quite became what scouts expected, but he still provides a seasoned big man for the Jayhawks.
It’s early in the year, so the key for Tuesday night is how these young teams will react to the bright lights. Most of the talent between both rosters comes from freshmen and sophomores. This is a huge stage in prime time. Duke isn’t going to shoot 70 percent again like it did against Davidson, but it will push the tempo and hit Kansas with several weapons offensively. How will the Jayhawks’ defense respond?
The Blue Devils have met the Jayhawks nine times throughout history, dating back to 1985. Duke holds a 7-2 record in the series, last defeating Kansas in the 2011 Maui Invitational final. It’s just another game at this point in the season, but an early resume booster is on the line tonight.