Four of the top five teams in college basketball faced off last night in a new early-season tournament called the Champions Classic. It's a made-for-TV event aimed to build excitement for the season, and last night in the United Center in Chicago that's exactly what Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas, and Duke did. Unlike most early-season events, which are marred by poor chemistry and sloppy play, all four of the participating teams appeared to be in near mid-season form — especially Michigan State.
While the other three teams at the event featured high-profile freshman recruits, the No. 2-ranked Spartans relied on cohesive team defense and a surprisingly explosive, un-Big Ten-like transition offense led by returning stars to earn a 78-74 victory over the very young No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats.
On paper the nightcap was a matchup between No. 4 Duke and No. 5 Kansas, but in reality it was a showdown between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker — the two highest-rated recruits in the country. Wiggins' Jayhawks won that battle with a 94-83 game that was a lot closer than the final score indicates.
But the real winners last night were fans of basketball, who got to see four of the best coaches in college basketball having sideline heart attacks before Thanksgiving...
To see Kentucky's Julius Randle, an 18-year-old, overpowering triple teams against one of the toughest interior teams in the country...
To see Andrew Wiggins repeatedly finishing at the basket on cuts and fast breaks...
And to see Jabari Parker catching fire from beyond the arc.
Last night everyone was excited the upcoming basketball season — from LeBron James to Bryce Harper.
College hoops fans have a lot to look forward to over the next four months...
And basketball fans in general will love seeing these guys play for years to come.