Duke vs. Kansas: Preview and Prediction for 2013 Champions Classic Showdown
Drawing all of the national attention, however, are two players who weren't even alive when Danny Manning and Christian Laettner were making history for these schools. Everyone is tuning in to see Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker in the head-to-head battle between likely top-five picks in the 2014 NBA draft.
Which 6'8" freshman phenom will win the scoring battle? Which iconic coach will win the overall battle? And what does this game mean for the five-month long war that is the 2013-14 season?
Here is the preview of Tuesday night's game, including a key matchup to watch, a few x-factors and a prediction for the final score.
How They Match Up
|PG||Quinn Cook (6'2")||Naadir Tharpe (5'11")|
|SG||Tyler Thornton (6'2")||Wayne Selden Jr. (6'5")|
|SF||Rodney Hood (6'8")||Perry Ellis (6'8")|
|PF||Jabari Parker (6'8")||Andrew Wiggins (6'8")|
|C||Amile Jefferson (6'9")||Tarik Black (6'9")|
|Bench||Rasheed Sulaimon (6'4")||Andrew White III (6'6")|
|Bench||Marshall Plumlee (7'0")||Joel Embiid (7'0")|
|Bench||Josh Hairston (6'8")||Frank Mason (5'11")|
|Bench||Matt Jones (6'4")||Conner Frankamp (6'0")|
Neither team starts players that fit the traditional description of small forward or center, and both teams will likely play at least 10 or 11 men before the night is finished. Unless Embiid or Plumlee takes over the game, there's no particular size advantage for either team.
What's at Stake?
At the risk of hyperbole, the top pick in the 2014 NBA draft could be on the line.
With the sheer number of projected first-round picks on display between the two games at the Champions Classic, there are going to be a ton of NBA scouts in attendance.
According to Charley Green, who handles credentialing for the Champions Classic, the United Center had to decline more than 50 media credentials due to lack of space.
Said Green, "Approximately 300 media and 70 to 80 scouts have been approved, and the scout number varies because some [NBA] executives will pay more for a specific lower-level seat as opposed to sitting in our main scout sections. So those won't even show up in my system."
A single game in November is hardly the only data point that teams will use in order to make a decision that will directly impact the franchise's next five years, but if Wiggins clearly outplays Parker—or vice versa—it'll be hard to ignore in the days leading up to the draft.
Even if the top pick in the draft isn't necessarily on the line, a No. 1 seed in March very well might be. Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville are expected to grab three of the four spots on the top line.
The winner of this game would instantly become the favorite for the fourth.
Mike Krzyzewski has more wins than any other coach in men's college basketball history. He has led his teams to four national championships and 11 Final Fours. He also coached the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He has won the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award three times. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Aside from an undefeated season, there are very few things he hasn't accomplished while coaching at Duke.
And yet, Bill Self might be on pace to outdo Coach K before all is said and done.
If Self coaches as late into life as Krzyzewski has, he would need to average just over 28 wins per season to catch the living legend. Over the last 13 years, he has averaged a little more than 29 wins per year, so that's not totally crazy talk.
Self has one national championship under his belt and has already won the aforementioned Naismith award once.
Matchup to Watch
Perry Ellis vs. Rodney Hood
Both Duke and Kansas will spend much of this season relying on a pair of 6'8" forwards. And while everyone else is keying in on Wiggins vs. Parker, it's Ellis vs. Hood that will likely dictate the outcome of the game.
Hood loves to live along the perimeter on offense. Two years ago at Mississippi State, 45 percent of his field-goal attempts were three-pointers—and he made 36.4 percent of them. He only attempted two triples in Friday night's opener against Davidson, and he drained them both. If Ellis doesn't step out to the wing to defend him, Hood will make him pay until he does.
At the other end of the court, Ellis doesn't want any part of three-point shots. Even though he made 67 percent of them last season, he only attempted three. He's best suited on the low blocks alongside Black, grabbing rebounds and accumulating free-throw attempts.
Ellis' contributions are the more crucial of the two.
If Hood's long-range jumpers aren't going in, chances are good that another Blue Devil will step up to fill the void. But if Ellis is unable to dominate in the paint against an undersized Duke team, it turns the game into more of a back-and-forth three-point shooting contest—which is a contest that has favored Duke for the past 30 years.
X-Factor No. 1: Point guard play
Duke has a lot of guards and small forwards who can play along the perimeter, but Quinn Cook is the only real point guard on the team. Whether it's because of foul trouble or just to catch his breath, Cook will likely come out of the game at one point or another—and it's at those times that Kansas should look to capitalize.
Between Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp, the Jayhawks have three point guards who could play significant minutes. Having to occasionally count on a "backup" ball handler is less of a detriment to Kansas than to Duke.
X-Factor No. 2: Minutes played by 7-foot centers
Including his redshirt freshman year, this is Marshall Plumlee's third year under Krzyzewski's tutelage, and he looks about as polished as the pair of dress shoes in the back of my closet. If the youngest Plumlee is going to make a huge contribution to Duke's season, it'll be about as surprising as the out-of-nowhere numbers that Brian Zoubek put up for the championship team in 2009-10.
Joel Embiid, on the other hand, was the highest rated center in this year's recruiting class and is expected to be a top-10 draft pick. In Kansas' opener, Embiid scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in just 11 minutes of work. If Coach Self turns Embiid loose on Duke and forces Coach Krzyzewski to give a lot of minutes to Plumlee, it's a considerable advantage for Kansas.
Contribution from the big men will be huge, because according to Dick Vitale, "The team that dominates the glass and shoots better on the foul line will have the advantage."
X-Factor No. 3: Three pointers
Duke shot 62 percent from behind the arc in the season opener. That will probably never happen again, but Duke has a plethora of players who could suddenly catch fire from long range. When Cook, Sulaimon, Parker and Hood are on the court at the same time, it's impossible to effectively guard them all while still protecting the paint.
Getting Naadir Tharpe back from a one-game suspension should help Kansas look less frazzled than it did in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, but it's hard not to like Duke in this game after the way the Blue Devils destroyed Davidson.
Pit these two teams against each other a month or two down the road, and it might be a different story, but here and now Duke should win.
Prediction: Duke wins by a score of 83-75.
Post your predicted scores in the comments, and follow me on twitter to let me know how dumb I am when my prediction goes haywire.
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