We’re just over two weeks into another exciting NCAA basketball season, which means plenty has already happened. The world of college basketball is relentless and energizing and a lot has transpired in the last week. Today is the next edition of Loose Change, a closer look at the recent happenings in the sport and a few takeaways about some of these teams and players. We begin our focus with a few of the holiday tournaments, but there’s plenty of good and bad to look at already.
1. An overview of the Champions Classic
One of the best parts of the early college basketball season is the Champions Classic, an event that pits Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan State against each other for one game in a cyclical pattern. This year the event was held in Indianapolis, after being in other places like Chicago and New York in recent years. The matchups pit Kentucky against Michigan State while Kansas played Duke, and all but Michigan State were ranked teams in the Top 7 in the polls.
The first matchup became a bit of an instant classic right off the bat. It took two overtimes to decide a winner, but it was Michigan State pulling off the 86-77 win over #4 Kentucky. Michigan State had nearly upset Gonzaga just a few days earlier and was finally able to finish the job. Oscar Tshiebwe made his season debut and was outstanding with 22 points and 18 rebounds, but fouled out in overtime and his absence in double overtime played a big role in the outcome of the game.
Game two wasn’t a double-overtime thriller, but #6 Kansas and #7 Duke still gave us quite the performance, with the Jayhawks grabbing a 69-64 victory. A back-and-forth game saw Kansas take the lead for good with just under two minutes left, led by Jalen Wilson’s 25 points and 11 rebounds. This young Blue Devils lineup has plenty of potential, highlighted by Kyle Filpowski’s 17 points and 14 rebounds, but new head coach Jon Scheyer came up just short in his first marquee opportunity.
This event showed us that these four teams might still just be getting started this season but all have potential for greatness this year. We’ve definitely underrated Michigan State, but Tom Izzo’s squad looks fantastic early, with unheralded pieces like Mady Sissoko really standing out. In the other game, we saw a major battle before the young guns of Duke and the defending champs, and it won’t be the last close games for either of these powers. Don’t be shocked to see all four teams contending for their respective league’s titles.