Two of college basketball’s elite programs meet on Tuesday night as the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) take on the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (2-0) in the 2015 State Farm Champions Classic at the United Center in Chicago. The blue bloods clash as the first true test for either team this season and the main event of the annual 24-hour hoops marathon that signals the real beginning to the college basketball season.
Both of these top-five teams were in the Final Four last year, with Kentucky losing in the semifinals before Duke beat Wisconsin for their fifth national championship. Kentucky leads the all-time series with Duke, 11-9, but the Blue Devils have won the last three matchups and Mike Krzyzewski owns a 5-2 record against the Wildcats.
In two games this season, Duke is averaging over a hundred points off 49.6 percent shooting from the field and won each contest by at least 18. The defending national champions are paced by sophomore Grayson Allen, one of Duke’s breakout freshman stars from the Final Four. Allen scored 54 points total in the wins over Siena and Bryant, shooting 16-for-31 (5-of-12 from three point range) and making 17-of-18 free throw attempts.
Freshman swingman Brandon Ingram, who spurned Kentucky for Duke, had 36 points in the two games while forward Amile Jefferson notched a double-double in each of the first two contests. As a team, the Blue Devils forced 36 turnovers in their two wins.
Kentucky didn’t look as sharp in its 13-point opening night win over Albany but set things straight with a 30-point victory over New Jersey Institute of Technology the next night. John Calipari’s squad was led by freshman forward Skal Labissiere, who scored 26 points to lead the way on 10-of-12 shooting after struggling on opening night. He’s made nine of his 10 free-throw attempts and collected six blocks in his first two NCAA games.
After missing the opener with a bruised knee, freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe debuted with 11 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. Junior forward Derek Willis barely played his first two years at Kentucky but has begun the season well, averaging 12.5 points and four rebounds in 22.5 minutes on the floor. Tuesday night will be a homecoming for guards Tyler Ulis and Charles Matthews, who hail from the Windy City.
Kentucky also made news off the court Tuesday when five-star recruit Edrice "Bam" Adebayo announced he will join the famed program next season. Adebayo is a 6’8 power forward and ranked No. 6 in the ESPN 100 player rankings.
"They're a winning program with a great all-around environment," Adebayo said on Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio. "I just like the staff, and I like Coach Cal [John Calipari]."
Duke currently has the No. 1 and No. 2 players on the list already committed in Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum.
Start Time: 7:30 p.m.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Expect a lot of turnovers with so much youth on the court. Duke should do a better job of protecting the basketball, while Allen should lead the way in scoring.
Predicted Score: Duke over Kentucky, 78-70