With the roster finally set, the Kentucky Wildcats can finally be evaluated and compared to other teams. There’s no better place to start than with the college basketball matchup of the 2018-19 season against the Duke Blue Devils.
UK will play its first game of the season on November 6th in the Champions Classic against Duke. The two programs have become the poster-teams for the one-and-done model while John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski have become rivals off the court as well as on the court.
The game will feature more NBA talent that almost any other college basketball game in history. Both teams are loaded with draft picks, Duke is more flash while Kentucky has more substance.
Kentucky Tale of the Tape
Departures- Shai Gilgeous Alexander (G), Kevin Knox (F), Hamidou Diallo (G), Jarred Vanderbilt (F), Wenyen Gabriel (F), Tai Wynyard (F), Sacha Killyea-Jones (F)
Returning Players- PJ Washington (F), Nick Richards (F), Quade Green (G), Jemarl Baker (G), Brad Calipari (G)
Returning Minutes Per Game Leader- PJ Washington (27.4)
Returning Points Per Game Leader- PJ Washington (10.8)
Returning Rebounds Per Game Leader- PJ Washington (5.7)
Returning Assists Per Game Leader- Quade Green (2.7)
Newcomers- Reid Travis (F), EJ Montgomery (F), Ashton Hagans (G), Immanuel Quickley (G), Keldon Johnson (G/F), Tyler Herro (G)
Projected Starting Lineup- Ashton Hagans (G), Quade Green (G), Keldon Johnson (G/F), PJ Washington (F), Reid Travis (F)
Reserves- Immanuel Quickley (G), Tyler Herro (G), Jemarl Baker (G), Nick Richards (F), EJ Montgomery (F), Brad Calipari (G)
With Kentucky you have a well balanced team. They have offensive firepower, speed, athleticism, size, and experience. John Calipari has the luxury of using multiple line-ups depending upon the situation and the opponent.
With Reid Travis, PJ Washington, and Nick Richards, he has three very different players in the post and experience to go with it. All three bring something different to the table and will be able to play together. EJ Montgomery is the freshman and is probably the most athletic out of them all.
The guard situation is an embarrassment of wealth. With Ashton Hagans, Cal has an extremely athletic point guard that can be compared to De’Aaron Fox and John Wall. He has leadership and shooting with Quade Green.
Tyler Herro and Jemarl Baker are sharpshooters but they have athleticism to go with it. Immanuel Quickley is a pass-first point guard and will be a quality backup to Hagans.
Keldon Johnson is an X-factor that can play guard and forward. He will be lethal on the wing and is probably the best defender on the team.
Duke Tale of the Tape
Departures- Grayson Allen (G), Marvin Bagley III (F), Wendell Carter, Jr. (F), Trevon Duval (G), Gary Trent, Jr. (G)
Returning Players- Javin Delaurier (F), Jack White (F), Jordan Goldwire (G), Alex O’Connell (G), Marques Bolden (C), Antonio Vrankovic (C), Justin Robinson (F), Mike Buckmire (G), Brennan Besser (G)
Returning Minutes Per Game Leader- Marques Bolden (12.9)
Returning Points Per Game Leader- Marques Bolden (3.9)
Returning Rebounds Per Game Leader- Javin DeLaurier (4.0)
Returning Assists Per Game Leader- Jordan Goldwire (0.9)
Newcomers- Cam Reddish (F), Zion Williamson (F), RJ Barrett (F), Joey Baker (F), Tre Jones (G)
Projected Starting Lineup- Tre Jones (G), RJ Barrett (F), Cam Reddish (F), Zion Williamson (F), Marques Bolden (C)
Reserves- Joey Baker (F), Alex O’Connell (G), Jerry Goldmire (G), Javin DeLaurier (F), Jack White (F), Antonio Vrankovic (C), Justin Robinson (F), Mike Buckmire (G), Brennan Besser (G)
While Duke’s starting five is formidable (minus Bolden) they are going to struggle in multiple areas. The Blue Devils are heavy on talented forwards but not so on guard play. Outside of Tre Jones, who is going to handle the ball and run the offense? You can make an argument that RJ Barrett could do it, but he’s not exactly a pass first kind of player.
Where John Calipari will be free to experiment with different offensive styles, Coach K is going to be limited to playing with a big line-up. If teams are able to speed them up, they could be in trouble.
Duke will also most likely have to once again play zone. There will be matchup problems all over the place, especially when they run into Kentucky at the beginning of the season. They have no real experience outside of Bolden and DeLaurier and both of those guys barely averaged double-digit minutes.
What to Expect:
I am expecting an exciting game with some eye-popping plays. But in the end, Kentucky is going to be too deep and too diverse for Duke. The Cats will also have better shooters and if the Blue Devils have to play zone they will be in trouble.
RJ Barrett will probably be the best player on the floor but a guy like Keldon Johnson isn’t going to back down from him and will make it a point to try and shut him down.
It’s going to be another classic in the making when the two Blue Bloods face off in Indy.