Welcome to the first edition of College Pride Press’s Game of the Week. This week, the Game of the Week is going to be when #1 Duke and #7 Kansas meet up in the Champion’s Classic at Madison Square Garden. The game is on Tuesday night at 9:30 pm, immediately following the 7:00 pm matchup between #2 Kentucky and #13 Michigan State.
The Blue Devils retained their top preseason ranking and are 2-0 after blowing out Marist and Grand Canyon, while Kansas’s 103-99 OT loss to #11 Indiana dropped them down 4 spots and put them at 0-1, their first time losing in the season opener since 2001. There was potential for an electric matchup between the top two freshmen in the nation, Duke’s Harry Giles and Kansas’s Josh Jackson, but unfortunately Giles is still out after undergoing surgery on his left knee in October from a torn ACL in November 2015. Two of Duke’s other highly acclaimed freshmen, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden, are also suffering from leg/foot injuries and are out for the time being. Duke is ridiculously talented this year (there’s a reason why they’re the favorites to win the national championship). With the addition of those freshman, this is the biggest team that Coach K has ever coached. Grayson Allen has a legitimate shot at being one of the main contenders for the AP Player of the Year award, and he’s backed up by the 3-pt specialist Luke Kennard, the veteran seniors Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson, and the explosive freshman Frank Jackson. Kansas is a certainly a top title contender as well. They took a big blow in losing all those players to the NBA draft, but they are still returning with a strong squad in sharpshooting senior guard Frank Mason III, junior Devonte’ Graham, sophomore Malik Newman, and freshman sensation Josh Jackson. Friday night’s overtime loss to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic was an immediate test for Bill Self’s new squad. Mason had a stellar game by putting up 30 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds, but Jackson and Graham both had underwhelming performances, shooting a combined 27% from the field on Jackson’s 9 pts and Graham’s 16 pts.
The skilled shooting and size at Duke against the raw athleticism on the Jayhawks’ roster should prove to be an exciting matchup. If Duke was not missing Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden, they would be the heavy favorites in this game, but these circumstances make for a much more interesting game. Kansas’s defense is going to need to find a way to shut down Grayson Allen, who is leading the team in scoring at 20.5 ppg. Duke will have to watch out for Josh Jackson and Devonte’ Graham coming out hot trying to turn around their poor outing in the opener, along with attempting to silence Frank Mason III’s hot hand. This top ten matchup isn’t going to be very high scoring, as both teams defend very well on the perimeter. Regardless of the outcome of this game, the Blue Devils and the Jayhawks are both among the nation’s elite teams that are primed for stellar seasons and eventually deep tournament runs.
Game Info: Tuesday, Nov. 15th 9:30 pm EST on ESPN
Prediction: Duke 64 Kansas 61