Duke has another team stocked with highly regarded freshmen, and, as is often the case, has a marquee game to begin the season.
Fourth-ranked Duke tangles with third-ranked Kansas in Tuesday night’s Champions Classic at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a different approach every year,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “This group is going to be a unit, not a starting five. Everyone’s got to be ready to play. I’d call it old school, like older Duke teams, from years past.”
Kansas has more of a veteran element, with senior Udoka Azubuike and junior Silvio De Sousa in the post. Their returns are highly anticipated; Azubuike was limited to nine games last season due to injury, while De Sousa was ineligible for the season.
Look for sophomore guard Devon Dotson to build off a solid freshman season when he started in every game and averaged 12.3 points per game.
Still, the larger curiosity factor might fall on Duke until the event’s nightcap pits No. 2 Kentucky against top-ranked Michigan State. Still, Duke and Kansas are expected to put on a show.
“We’re going to be amped up and ready to play,” Duke senior forward Javin DeLaurier said. “Just making sure that our eyes don’t get too big in the bright lights and we keep ourselves grounded and we’ll be alright.”
Duke has point guard Tre Jones back for his sophomore season. The rest of the lineup is less familiar to many college basketball fans, so the Blue Devils will be introducing a new cast of players.
“You really don’t know yet what they do well and don’t do well and same thing (for) them with us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Center Vernon Carey Jr. and forward Matthew Hurt, a pair of freshmen, started in both of Duke’s exhibition games. Freshmen Wendell Moore Jr. and Cassius Stanley are bound to carry significant roles.
Yet this is different from the star-studded freshman class from last year when Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish became early first-round selections in the NBA Draft.
Duke used 11 players in the opening eight minutes of its second exhibition game, so while Krzyzewski could assess various combinations on the court he may not have provided Kansas much of a scouting report to study.
“The easiest way to do it is on the defensive end, because roles don’t change,” Krzyzewski said. “They all have to do the same stuff. The best way to be balanced is to have everyone play good defense.”
Kansas has won its Champions Classic game in each of the past three seasons.
“I wish we had a game or two under (our belts), but it’s such a good event to be a part of, tipping off the season and having a lot of interest and all eyes on Madison Square Garden,” Self said.
Duke is opening with a top-five matchup for the second season in a row, defeating then-No. 2 Kentucky last November. In top-5 collisions, the Blue Devils are 32-18 under Krzyzewski.
Duke leads the series 7-5, but Kansas has won the past three matchups. The most recent came in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional final in Omaha, Neb.
–Field Level Media