The college basketball season really begins with the annual 24-hour hoops marathon that ends with the Champions Classic, which features the Kentucky Wildcats taking on the Duke Blue Devils.
Both the Cats and Devils are coming off impressive wins Saturday night. for Duke, it was a 113-75 over Bryant University in the 2K Classic. Sophomore guard Grayson Allen had a career-high 28 points after netting 26 in Duke's season-opening 92-74 win over Siena. His previous best of 27 -- set against Wake Forest last year -- was his only other 20-point game.
Freshman wing Brandon Ingram had 21 points after netting 15 in the opener. Senior forward Amile Jefferson had 11 points and 11 rebounds in his second straight double-double effort, while junior guard Matt Jones scored all of his career-best 19 in the first half. Jones is the only returning starter from last year's championship-winning team, but Jefferson did play a key role off the bench.
As for the 'Cats, they're coming off an 87-57 win over NJIT on Saturday. Freshman forward Skal Labissiere dazzled the crowd as he scored 26 points to lead the way for UK. After missing the opener with a bruised knee, freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe debuted with a team-high 12 rebounds to go with 11 points. Junior forward Marcus Lee came within two rebounds of his first-career double-double, scoring 10 points and collecting eight rebounds.
As a whole, UK looked impressive after a so-so performance in their 78-65 win over Albany on Friday. So too has junior forward Derek Willis, who scored 25 combined points in his first two games after having that total in the entire 2014-15 season. He also blocked a pair of shots and has been part of yet another Kentucky team that's expected to be among the nation's longest, most athletic and adept at blocking shots. UK is averaging 9.5 blocks per game through two contests, good for 22nd in the nation.
Duke, on the other hand, is again looking like one of the nation's best shooting teams. After two games, the Blue Devils have made 19 three-pointers, which is tied for the third-most of any team as of Sunday. Their 102.5 points per game are also good for 21st best.
Defense is also a strong suit of the Blue Devils thus far. In two games this season, Duke has forced an average of 18.0 turnovers per game. The Blue Devils have turned them into 22.5 points per game and an average +13.0 margin in points off turnovers.
Both of these teams enter this matchup ranked in the top five of every major poll. Ranked fifth by the Associated Press, the Blue Devils have been ranked in the AP poll an NCAA-best 157 consecutive weeks, the seventh-longest streak in NCAA history. Duke is also ranked fourth by the Coaches Top 25 Poll.
As for Kentucky, they enter this matchup ranked second in the AP Poll and tied with North Carolina for first place in the Coaches Poll. Each of the past two seasons when the Wildcats began the season as the coaches’ No. 1 team, they reached the Final Four, making the national championship game in 2014 and the semifinals last season.
This matchup will be the second of two games in the fifth annual State Farm Champions Classic from the United Center in Chicago with the second being Michigan State vs. Kansas. The four teams face off as part of the 24-hour marathon of college basketball on the ESPN network.
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow Kentucky vs Duke:
2015 State Farm Champions Classic: Kentucky vs Duke
Date: November 17, 2015
Game time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: United Center in Chicago, Illinois
Series: UK leads 11-9, but 2-5 vs Mike Krzyzewski and Duke has won three straight in series.
TV Info: ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Andy Katz)
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network (Tom Leach, Mike Pratt)
Odds: No line has been set, but check back at Odds Shark for the latest when they do come out.
Rosters: Duke Roster; Kentucky Roster
Projected Duke Starters
G - Grayson Allen, 6-5, 205 lbs
G - Matt Jones, 6-5, 200 lbs
G/F - Brandon Ingram, 6-9, 190 lbs
F - Amile Jefferson, 6-9, 225 lbs
C- Marshall Plumlee, 7-0, 250 lbs
Projected Kentucky Starters
G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs
G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs
G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs
F - Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224 lbs
F - Skal Labissiere, 6-11, 225 lbs