Kansas fans circle their calendars for the Champions Classic, an initial test to see how the Jayhawks stack up.
Last season against Duke, Frank Mason started his electrifying National Player of the Year campaign and never looked back. Tonight, the two winningest programs in college basketball will take the court following the Duke and Michigan State game. Coming off of two consecutive wins against the Kentucky Wildcats, the Jayhawks look to avenge their embarrassing display in the 2014 Champions Classic.
Devonte’ Graham will finally graduate from bridesmaid to bride and have his first crack at the big stage as the floor general. After missing the season opener for disciplinary reasons, Billy Preston will be thrown into the fire for his debut. Recently named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, Marcus Garrett will get to see how he measures up against the top-ranked 2017 Wildcat recruiting class. Udoka Azubuike gets the chance to test his post skills against a much more formidable foe than the Tennessee State Tigers.
Squaring off against Kentucky in only the second game of the season helps the Jayhawks prepare for the grind of Big 12 play down the line. Newcomers are also able to acclimate to playing at a neutral site like what they will see in the big dance. Rather than being lulled into a false sense of security, the Champions Classic jumpstarts non-conference play and begins building a strong tournament resume with the ability to secure a high-quality win.
With football still dominating the public consciousness, these blue blood match-ups bring ratings and attention to college hoops. While Kentucky has nearly been caught sleepwalking in their first two games, expect this young and highly talented squad to buy in to the hype and make it a highly competitive affair. With battle-tested, experienced players like Graham and Vick, the Jayhawks should not be rattled by the moment and be favored to capitalize in late game scenarios.
As a college basketball fan, you cannot ask for much better than a double-header featuring four top-10 squads. And more importantly, there are few things more satisfying than a chance to silence Big Blue Nation and make a dent in the all-time series that Kentucky leads 22-8.