Busting Brackets

Thoughts From The State Farm Champions Classic


Well folks the college basketball season is here, and in its beginning stages.  Already, there have been upsets, buzzer beaters and some amazing performances. The first week of the season for the past years has meant one thing, the State Farm Champions Classic. The Champions Classic pits four past champions in a rotating schedule of play. The teams always produce great competition, and in many cases may be a preview of a tournament game down the road in March.

The games on Tuesday lived up to the hype pitting Kentucky Vs Duke and Kansas Vs Michigan State. Each game produced many storylines, but some stood out more than the others. In my humble opinion there were 5 stories which shaped not only the games themselves, but the way the season could unfold.

More from Kansas Jayhawks

1)  Tyler Ulis is the Engine that could propel Kentucky to a deep tournament run.

The Kentucky Wildcats came into their matchup with the Duke Blue Devils ranked 2nd in the country. The Wildcats along with the Blue Devils have stellar recruiting classes, and the game promised to be a tight battle. However, the Kentucky players were not buying into that prediction, especially one player.

Tyler Ulis controlled the game from opening tip to the final whistle, and I mean that literally as he played every minute for John Calipari. Ulis took advantage of being the only true point guard on the floor for the majority of the game. His court vision set up his teammates all game long and provided many easy baskets. Ulis not only tallied 6 assist to help with the offense, but he poured in 18 points to lead the Wildcats in scoring.

Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky Wildcats /

Kentucky Wildcats

Ulis was the best player on the court and has shown himself to be an outstanding player in the two previous games as well. The Wildcats have a definite weapon in a true point guard and floor general that so many teams do not have. Ulis leading on the floor will help with the development of Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe. If Ulis can control the offense, and be a disruptive force on the defensive end Kentucky will go far with the talent Coach Cal has put together. One thing is for sure Ulis is cementing himself as the top point guard in the country in this very young season.

2) Grayson Allen needs to step into the top dog role.

Duke in the first two games of the year were lead in scoring by a talented sophomore, Grayson Allen. Over his first two games he was averaging a little over 27 points a game. A large average but considering the competition his point output was not surprising. Allen came into the game with the Wildcats as one of the players Duke was depending on to score this season. However, in this game Allen seemed to be overmatched.

Allen finished the game with only 6 points on a terrible 2-11 shooting night. This is not the output Duke was looking for. Allen seemed to be frustrated by the Kentucky defense all night long, putting up wild shots over the outstretched hands of Kentucky defenders. His poor output didn’t lose the game for Duke but it definitely did not help the cause of the Blue Devils.

Grayson Allen needs to step into the leading scorer role for the Blue Devils this season for them to be better on the offensive end. Allen is truly a gifted player, and could be extremely special as a player this season. However, he will need to shake this poor performance off and continue to improve as a player as the season progresses.

3) Denzel Valentine should be in the player of the year conversation.

Tom Izzo every year it seems takes his Michigan State team to the final four on the backs of a team, not just one player. However, this year one player might shoulder much of the load if the Spartans are to get back to another Final Four. Denzel Valentine put on an absolute show last night, filling up the stat sheet like so few in today’s game can.

Valentine put up a triple double on the way to leading the Spartans to a come from behind win. Valentine finished with 29 points, 12 assists, and 12 rebounds. It was only the 13th triple double in Spartan history, and only the second ever against Kansas. The only other triple double being surrendered to another Michigan State player, one Magic Johnson. Valentine was near unstoppable as he was a part of the majority of the Sparty baskets down the stretch.

So did this performance lift Denzel into the player of the year conversation early in the year? The answer should be a resounding yes. Valentine should be able to keep this type of production up for the remainder of the year. After all the triple double came against a proven team in Kansas who has championship aspirations as well.

4) Kansas will be a tough team for the rest of the season.

Nov 17, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) shoots the ball against Kansas Jayhawks forward Jamari Traylor (31) during the first half at the United Center. Michigan State defeats Kansas 79-73. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas may have lost this game but they did not lose their season by any means. Yes, they did have trouble shutting the door on an experienced Michigan State team, but with the performance Denzel Valentine was putting on many teams would have had that same problem. The truth is Kansas is an extremely experienced team and should be a handful for many teams around the country this season.

They say the Big 12 championship runs through Lawrence Kansas, and I see no reason why this statement should not be true once again. Bill Self’s team is talent laden and veteran laden, a dangerous combination when March rolls around. The Jayhawks will be fine after this loss and look for them to rebound in a big way over the next few weeks. After all they were blown out last year by Kentucky in this game, and recovered rather nicely. They will have their opportunities to show the nation they are an elite team as matchups with Kentucky and the talented Big 12 loom.

5) Two out of these four teams will be in the Final Four.

Listen up readers a “Hot Take” is about to be given right now. Two out of the four of these teams which played on Tuesday night will be in the Final Four. Write it down now, however I have no clue which ones of these four will be in the Final Four.

Based on the games I would have to give the nod to Kentucky and Michigan State, however Duke and Kansas will more than likely get their problems figured out. The talent is there for all four teams to make a deep run come March.

Next: Gonzaga To Face Northern Arizona in First Game of the Season

Much of the success of Duke and UK respectively will depend on how their young talent develops and comes into their own. Michigan State and Kansas will have to depend on their veterans not getting injured.

Also, if Kansas can get freshman Cheick Diallo cleared by the NCAA they will greatly increase their chances of getting to the ultimate destination. After all there is a reason all these teams are champions. One thing is for sure the season will definitely be a fun one to watch.