College Basketball Preview: Top-4 Teams in Action

College basketball has arrived and we have 2 outstanding games to watch on opening night! The top-4 seeds in the country all play… against each other! That’s right #3 Kansas will face off with #4 Duke to start the night and then #1 Michigan State will battle #2 Kentucky.

When and Where

#3 Kansas will face #4 Duke at Madison Square Garden to start the State Farm Champions Classic at 7:00 pm EST on ESPN. Immediately following the finish of that game, #2 Kentucky will host #1 Michigan State in that same tournament and will also air on ESPN.

Why We’re Watching: #3 Kansas / #4 Duke

Duke once again will trot out a ton of freshman talent, just like they do every year. Coach K will only have one returning starter from last season, Tre Jones, while the rest of the starting lineup will consist of some of the top recruits from around the country this past recruiting cycle. This new group is definitely not like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish but then again, who is? Vernon Carey Jr (6th overall in the nation), Matthew Hurt (11th), Wendell Moore (22nd), and Cassius Stanley (32nd) will look to prove that they can make just as much of an impact as the previous Duke freshman core.

Tre Jones via Keenan Hairston for College Basketball Preview
Tre Jones via Keenan Hairston

With a different approach to this college basketball season, Kansas will bring back veterans from last season. The likes of Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa, and Devon Dotson look to finish what they started or build off of a strong season previously. Dotson returns to Kansas after starting each and every game last season and has a chance to lead the team in scoring this year. As for Azubuike and De Sousa, they missed most, if not all, of last season due to injury and ineligibility. 

Why We’re Watching: #2 Kentucky / #1 Michigan State

Michigan State has 3 of their top-4 scorers returning to make another run at a college basketball championship. Cassius Winston has a real shot of breaking the 20-point per game average as he had over 18-points per game last season. An injury-riddled 2018-2019 cut Joshua Langford’s season short last year but he looks to bounceback alongside his senior backcourt mate, Cassius. Lastly, Xavier Tillman will see his minutes increase this season which means he’ll likely be a double-double candidate every time he plays. 

Cassius Winston via Bryan Horowitz for College Basketball Preview
Cassius Winston via Bryan Horowitz

Kentucky is taking the Duke approach to things as they bring in 4 freshmen that ranked within the top-40 in the country. In fact, the only “veteran” on this roster that played ANY minutes last season was then-sophomore Nick Richards. Richards, the biggest man on the roster at 6’11 and 245lbs, will probably see a slight bump in usage considering all of the youth Kentucky will play this season. The only returning starter, Ashton Hagans, will likely once again play a complementary role to arguably more talented (in terms of rankings) running mates. Kentucky will lean on their new recruits Kahlil Whitney (#12 recruit in the nation), Tyrese Maxey (13th), Johnny Juzang (30th), and Keion Brooks (34th) to replicate the success of Tyler Herro and PJ Washington.

Predictions

#3 Kansas: 77

#4 Duke: 73

Leading Scorer: Vernon Carey Jr

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#1 Michigan State: 72

#2 Kentucky: 66

Leading Scorer: Cassius Winston

Conclusion

College basketball is back and what a night of hoops! The top-4 teams are all in action and facing one another in a tournament. Who do you think wins tonight? Are there any other games tonight that have your attention? Let me know in the comments below! Also, check out the shop and other content by clicking here.

-Mitchell Seefeldt

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