The Champions Classic is upon us, and that means college basketball is finally back. This time, we have fans in the stands and the magic of college hoops is back after a year where nothing felt right.
The Champions Classic signifies the (un)official start to the college hoops season, featuring four premiere programs battling it out in front of the entire nation.
We are entering the ten-year anniversary of the Champions Classic, with the first one happening In November of 2011, and there have been some memorable Kentucky moments, both in wins and losses, over the past ten years.
And with Kentucky and Duke going at it for the fourth time in this event, the Blue Devils lead 2-1, let’s run down some of the most memorable for the Wildcats.
Anthony Davis Arrives - November 15, 2011
In what would end up being the National Championship game of the 2011-12 season, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Kansas Jayhawks squared off in Madison Square Garden for the first edition of the Champions Classic.
Anthony Davis was the No. 1 recruit for Kentucky, finally getting to showcase himself in front of the entire country - and he didn’t disappoint. Davis would finish the game with 14 points, six rebounds, and seven blocks against the Jayhawks in a 75-65 win.
Davis actually finished third in scoring for the Wildcats that night behind Doron Lamb (17) and Terrence Jones (15), but put the college basketball world on watch with his seven blocks and near triple-double.
I wonder what ever became of Anthony Davis?
Alex Poythress - Future No. 1 pick? - November 13, 2012
Coming off their eighth national championship and a transcendent talent in Anthony Davis, Kentucky and John Calipari answered that by landing another one; Alex Poythress?
Well, actually it was Nerlens Noel, who had been considered one of the best high school players of all-time by the time he committed to Kentucky just a few weeks after winning the national title.
Noel was seen as the heir apparent to Davis, and realistically, he was before his season-ending Injury.
But the talk of the early season for the Wildcats was that of Alex Poythress, who was the No. 7 ranked recruit in the class of 2012.
Poythress put up a monstrous 20 points and eight rebounds against the Blue Devils, including a couple monster dunks, in the loss.
Julius Randle Shows Signs - November 12, 2013
What was the most hyped and anticipated team since Michigan’s Fab-Five, Kentucky landed five of the top-ten recruits in 2013, including one of the big three of that class.
The top-three recruits for 2013 were Andrew Wiggins (No. 1), Jabari Parker (No. 2) and Julius Randle (No. 3), and it was seen as one the best classes in recent memory. And all three played in the Champions Classic.
Kentucky and Michigan State faced off in a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup and Julius Randle held his own against a veteran-lead Spartans team. However, Kentucky would fall short 78-74.
Randle would put up 27 points and 13 rebounds, and that Wildcats team showed signs of what would eventually come to be, a trip to the Final Four and the National Title game.
Julius Randle would go on to break the record for most double-doubles by a Kentucky player in a season.
“Kentucky is Legit” - November 18, 2014
In the words uttered by Jay Bilas at the conclusion of the game, Kentucky was legit.
Kentucky beat No. 5 Kansas by 32 points and held the Jayhawks to 40 points, and just 12 total points in the second half.
The Wildcats had 12 different players score, led by Dakari Johnson’s 11.
Kentucky would then win 38 games and fall short to Wisconsin in the Final Four, two games shy of a perfect 40-0.
Welcome, Malik Monk - November 15, 2016
Prior to his scoring explosion against North Carolina later in the season, Malik Monk showed his ability to go absolutely nuclear against Michigan State in the third game of the season.
Monk dropped 23 points and shot 7-11 from three-point land and added an additional six rebounds.
Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, and De’Aaron Fox combined for 56 of Kentucky’s 69 points.
The Wildcats would win the SEC regular season and tournament title, but would fall just one shot short of a Final Four in the Elite Eight in a rematch against North Carolina.
Tyrese Maxey is Like That - November 5, 2019
Kentucky had not tasted victory in the Champions Classic since Monk’s explosion against Michigan State three years prior.
In 2017 the Wildcats lost a close one to Kansas, another good performance by Kevin Knox with 20 points, and in 2018, they simply decided to not play in the event at all (don’t research that, it’s true, trust me.)
Once again, we were met with a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup between Kentucky and Michigan State. The No. 1 Spartans against the No. 2 Wildcats.
And despite a veteran-led team on the court for the Wildcats, it was the diaper-dandy off the bench for the Wildcats that had the Twitter world on fire after his ballsy shot from near mid-court to clinch the game for the ‘Cats.
Maxey dropped 26 points off the bench and shot 3-7 from three, including a 30-footer that sealed the deal against the Spartans, that got John Wall out of his seat.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 took away a post-season run for that team, who won the SEC by three games and clicked at the perfect moment, gearing up for another March run.