The first real action in the 2018 season is upon us with the Champions Classic. The forth ranked Duke Blue Devils will take on the number 2 Kentucky Wildcats in a battle of heavyweights. The other Champions Bracket has the number 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks battling the Michigan State Spartans. The Duke – Kentucky game presents an interesting matchup with 2 relatively young squads going head to head. Kentucky, favored in this early season matchup brings in a bit more experience than the Blue Devils having added grad transfer Reid Travis from the Stanford Cardinal and several sophomores from last years squad in Quade Green, PJ Washington and Nick Richards. The Wildcats have a ton of depth at every position and with the addition of freshman Tyler Herro should be improved from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils lost 92.6% of their scoring from last years team and the Wildcats 74.8% so both squads will essentially be completely different in makeup. The projected starting lineup for the Wildcats will be: Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Reid Travis and PJ Washington
The Blue Devils tout a starting lineup long on talent but very lacking in experience. Coach K and the Blue Devils will start a lineup that will most likely include freshmen: Tre Jones, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson. In addition to the freshmen Duke will start a junior Marques Bolden – if the recent exhibition games are any indication. While the Blue Devils may have the most talent on the floor any given time, the Wildcats boast the advantage in depth at every position. Kentucky can bring in several waves of lineups with guards Quade Green ( a starter on last year’s team ) and freshman Immanuel Quickly. They also have a plethora of bigs to choose from including returnee Nick Richards, freshman EJ Montgomery. This may be the most depth that John Calipari has had at Kentucky and it will be a huge advantage going into Tuesday night.
The game could come down to several key factors:
Which team is able to shoot a better percentage from beyond the arc?
Which team establishes themselves on the defensive end?
Can Duke “out talent” the Kentucky Wildcats?
Can Duke stay close to the Wildcats on the boards?
Will the depth that Kentucky features tire out a limited Duke bench?
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