The State Farm Champions Classic has been becoming a tradition in college basketball. It’s the Final Four before the Final Four. It’s hard to believe that this is the seventh installment of the annual tip-off to college basketball season, and Kentucky, as well as the other three schools, have been apart of every one of them, and they boast a pretty solid record through the six years.
2011 was the first installment of the round-robin “tournament” and it took place in Madison Square Garden, where the college basketball world was introduced to some scrawny-long-armed kid named Anthony Davis. Doron Lamb led Kentucky with 16 points on the game, but the star everyone was talking about after the game, was the future number one pick and the future All-Star Anthony Davis. Kentucky beat the Jayhawks 75-65.
2012 was the next installment and one of the most hyped games of the champions classic. It was the first time that Kentucky and Duke would play since John Calipari got to Kentucky. Kentucky brought in Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin, but it was unfortunately not enough to beat a tough and veteran Duke squad. In the loss to 9th ranked Blue Devils, Alex Poythress had a coming out party and put up 20 points and literally dunked on Duke about three or four times. It’s my favorite game to watch of Poythress’s because it shows that stud potential that he could have had later on in his Kentucky career.
2013 saw the year of “40-0” and that ended just three games into the season, as Kentucky dropped a close one to Michigan State, in what was the earliest meeting between 1st and 2nd ranked teams. But yet again, the sports world was talking about three stud freshman after that night, but one was getting more buzz than the other two. Julius Randle out-played Jabari Parker (Duke) and Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), respectively, putting up 27 points and 13 rebounds in his first prime-time college game. The undefeated season was but a dream for this team, but I think they fared pretty well towards the end of the season, yeah?
Speaking of undefeated season, the 2014 edition of the Champions Classic featured the worst blow-out in the history of the Champions Classic. If you’ll remember, this is when the Platoon took full-force and absolutely destroyed Kansas by a score of 72-40, while holding them to their lowest points scored since 1962 on just 19 percent shooting while blocking 11 shots. Dakari Johnson led the Cats with 11 points in the game, but people were not talking about Kentucky’s offense after that game.
2015 saw a rematch from 2012, albeit, a little less hyped up this time. Both Kentucky and Duke were coming into the season after losing a lot of production while not gaining much in the recruiting season. Kentucky added Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, and Skal Labassiere to pair with Tyler Ulis, while Duke basically just added Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard to go along with Grayson Allen. It was a back and forth game, with Kentucky eventually pulling away in the end, and the world was introduced to the best point guard of the year that season in Tyler Ulis. Ulis finished with 18 points six assists, in what was Kentucky’s first win over a Duke team since the 1998 NCAA tournament.
And finally, the most recent installment of the Champions Classic saw Kentucky match-up with Michigan State, in what a lot of people were picking the Spartans to beat Kentucky. That didn’t happen as Kentucky had a guy by the name of Malik Monk, who loves the bright lights by the way. Monk finished with 23 points off of seven(!) three pointers. Monk also added six rebounds and Kentucky pulled away with a 69-48 win.
If you’re keeping count, Kentucky currently has a 4-2 record in the champions classic, and they’re looking to add another one tonight. Kentucky and Kansas gear up for a third straight season playing each other, and round three in the Champions Classic overall, Which player will step up for the bright lights of Chicago, we’ll find out later tonight. Tune in at 9:30 on the SEC Network for a potential glimpse at this years Final Four.