College basketball is back, baby! Here comes the Champions Classic!
Boy oh boy is it great to have college ball back. After a summer filled with scandals, college basketball fans were finally able to drown out the noise and watch some games. And opening night did not disappoint.
In Indianapolis, four storied programs battled it out in the Champions Classic. The Classic is in it’s 8th year and consists of Kentucky, Michigan St., Kansas, and Duke, arguably the four best schools with the four best coaches in the last decade or so. It is a fantastic way to kick off the college basketball season. Fans get to watch really competitive games consisting of teams projected to go deep in the tournament right off the bat. Its also a great way to see how these highly ranked teams match-up against each other instantly, instead of having to wait until March.
So what have we learned after last night’s Classic?
Kansas Doesn’t Let Scandal Distract Them
The preseason #1 team in the nation looked like it last night against Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Led by Freshman Quentin Grimes and Dedric Lawson, the Jayhawks were able to hold off a late surge by Michigan State, after looking unstoppable in the first half. Their inability to serve a knockout punch was the only flaw Kansas showed.
And this is all without their best player, Silvio De Sousa, as he awaits his eligibility status after being caught up in the NCAA corruption trial taking place in federal court. According to his testimony, Adidas employee T.J. Gassnola claims he paid De Sousa’s guardian $2,500 to get De Sousa to commit to Kansas. It’s unclear if Kansas coach Bill Self was aware of any corruption, but some evidence brought forth in the trial suggests he might know more than originally believed. Pat Forde over at Yahoo! Sports does a great job summarizing Kansas’ involvement in the trial here.
Kentucky is a Fraud
That’s fraud with a capital F. Not sure how they were the preseason #2 ranked team in the nation, but it’s clear the committee was drunk when they put Kentucky in that slot. All the analysts picked them to win the championship this year. Yet, if they weren’t wearing Kentucky on the front of their jersey’s I would’ve guess Duke was playing a low-level DI team last night. The Wildcats defense was absent, giving up 59 points in each half. I couldn’t tell you one players name on the team because no one took control of the game. They looked slow, sluggish, and once the game got out of hand, disinterested.
Now my distaste for Kentucky has been well documented, but giving up the most points in the Champions Classic and losing by the biggest margin ever under Coach Calipari speaks for itself. They were embarrassed on national TV. Not the start they or anyone of BBN was looking for.
Duke’s Freshman Are For Real.
These guys looked like they were in mid-season form. There were questions on whether Barrett, Williamson, and Reddish could co-exist on the court together, as they were all highly touted recruits coming into the season. What we saw last night were stars who played as a team as opposed to individuals. The freshman were selfless, moving the ball around. They were quick on the fast break. They were dominant, outscoring the entire Kentucky team 89-84.
I mean, are we sure Zion Williamson is human?
I wouldn’t be surprised if he came to earth on that alien probe last year.
Michigan St. Will Be Just Fine
They had a really slow start against the Jayhawks, but the Spartans came back within three late in the game and had a chance to tie the game with just second left. However, their valiant efforts came up just short. But it was the effort to make it a game that showed how good this team can be. If you want to call it a moral victory, be my guest. I won’t but it sure must feel good to know they didn’t just give up like Kentucky.
It’s All About The Refs
Well at least the refs thought so. In a night that should’ve been about these storied programs and hyped freshman, the Refs tried to make it about themselves. Ticky-tack fouls were called constantly. They weren’t allowing the kids to play. 53 fouls were called in both games. Duke and Kentucky were in the bonus before the 10 minute mark of each half. No one wants to see that. Let the kids play. Hopefully it’s just rust or adjusting to new rules. Jay Avila’s kept pointing out how they were trying to clean up some aspects of the game, such as illegal picks and hooking of the arms. But the inability to defend cause a bump will be called a foul is not good for the game.
Despite the refs, it was an awesome night. It would not be surprising if we saw all four teams in the Final Four this year.
Oh baby, college basketball is back!
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