The first big night of college basketball is set to go on Tuesday, with a great doubleheader from Chicago featuring four of the best teams in the country, and our first look at the some of the most hyped freshmen leading up this year’s one-and-done class.
ESPN will televise the Champions Classic at 7:30 PM ET, and the first game is Michigan State-Kentucky. These are the top two teams in the preseason AP poll, and Kentucky forward Julian Randle is expected to be, if not the next version of Anthony Davis, at least the next version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
This doubleheader is so good though, that a 1-2 battle is only the undercard game. Mike Krzyzewski, a native of Chicago, comes home with his Duke team and ballyhooed freshman forward Jabari Walker. The signing of Walker represented Coach K’s surrender to the world of one-and-done.
The Blue Devils will play Kansas and no team has a more hyped prospect than the Jayhawks do with Alan Wiggins. He’s one of three top recruits that will start for Bill Self, and Wiggins is already expected to be the #1 pick in next year’s NBA draft. Nor is he playing coy, recently telling a reporter that his plans for this year are to “enjoy my last year in school.”
If the NBA draft were to be held today, we’re probably looking at Wiggins, Randle and Walker being the first three picks.
When even Kansas and Duke, two teams that have continued to trot out more experienced lineups in the recent past, are going for the big hit with the one-and-done, you know college basketball is in a whole new world.
I don’t particularly care for this new world–I’m perfectly fine with letting Wiggins, Randle, Walker and their brethren go directly to the NBA. There’s no reason they can’t start earning a big paycheck and there’s no reason for a college scholarship not to go to someone who wants to stay four years, earn a degree and play basketball (which, I kinda thought was the whole point of a basketball scholarship to begin with. Silly me).
But the colleges are okay with letting themselves by used by the NBA as a one-year training ground, so until that changes we’re stuck with this world.
The Champions Classic is the big event on the pre-Thanksgiving college basketball calendar. Some more big tournaments will start to pick up a week from Thursday. Nothing on the entire pre-conference calendar matches tonight in Chicago though. TheSportsNotebook’s college basketball coverage previewed each of the top 16 teams last week, and the Windy City has a potential Final Four lineup for a big Tuesday night.