The 2023 Champions Classic has arrived in Chicago, Illinois. This truly is one of the NCAA’s marquee events every year. Each year, everyone expects to be around in late March and early April face-off. With the early losses by Duke and Michigan State, the previously top-five matchup has lost a bit of its luster. However, Kansas is the current number one team and they will face a loaded Kentucky roster with the number one recruiting class. Here is a breakdown of the games including some predictions using FanDuel.
2024 Champions Classic Predictions
Duke Blue Devils vs Michigan State Spartans
The Blue Devils are entering this matchup after dropping from number two to number nine in the AP Top 25. Their home loss to Arizona was a slight surprise. That game ended with the Wildcats being more physical and bigger. Additionally, Michigan State suffered an embarrassing loss to James Madison on their home court and dropped from number four to number eighteen. They have shot the ball at an atrocious clip to start the year.
Duke will rely on their best player, Kyle Filipowski to dominate this matchup. Flip had an excellent start to the season and has scored with ease. This is really the first time he has played the five spot and he has been able to take advantage of bigger centers struggling to keep up with him in roll or pop scenarios.
The Blue Devils hope their experienced backcourt in Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach can have a big night. Proctor struggled to control the game against Arizona. He should not face as much defensive pressure tonight and will need to utilize his innate ability to create for his teammates. Also, expect Roach to look for his spots early and often to get his team off to a good start.
Michigan State typically starts slow under Tom Izzo. This year was supposed to be different with a veteran crew. However, they cannot make a three for anything at the moment. Tyson Walker had a monster start to the season but no one has elevated their game with him.
A major high note for the Spartans is the freshmen. Coen Carr and Jeremy Fears have been excellent through two games. Their playmaking and athleticism stand out and will be key to a big performance tonight. They have earned more time from Izzo, he just has to give it to them.
Finally, foul trouble has been a key. Mady Sissoko fouled out of the James Madison game and that played a key role in the loss. Guarding Filipowski will be difficult and he must stay out of foul trouble as the Spartans don’t have a ton of depth.
Champions Classic Picks: Duke -3.5, under 141.5
Duke has historically been great at the Champions Classic, winning at a 61% clip. Part of that is because their freshmen typically start fast. Take a look at the performances of Zion, Barrett, Banchero, etc. Jared McCain and Caleb Foster are the most likely freshmen to join that crew tonight. Duke just has more answers offensively than Michigan State.
Kentucky Wildcats vs Kansas Jayhawks
The Kentucky Wildcats are deep (when they can have everyone dress). As always, Kentucky has a loaded freshmen class. It really starts with DJ Wagner, Rob Dillingham, and Justin Edwards. All of them have scored well but the shooting has slacked. However, those three can get to the rim easier than most.
Along with the freshmen, Kentucky relies heavily on Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell. Mitchell is truly a four but is playing five because they have not had the other bigs healthy or eligible. Reeves has shot the ball extremely well to start and he is the key to keeping floor spacing present for the Wildcats.
To win this game, Kentucky will need their young talent to play like veterans. Calipari has not enjoyed a ton of success here though and facing the number one team in the country is no cakewalk.
The Kansas Jayhawks are back with a nice roster. They landed coveted transfer Hunter Dickinson and saw Kevin McCullar opt to return giving them a huge lift. Experience is obviously key in college basketball and Kansas has plenty of that.
A frontcourt of Dickinson and KJ Adams is as good as it gets in college. These two should dominate this game as Kentucky is going to be undersized. There is some concern about these two potentially clogging the lane but both have shown a decent face-up ability and Adams is a sneaky-good cutter.
The guards are the question for Kansas. Dajuan Harris is the most experienced by far. He is not a scorer (2 points in 2 games) but he needs to control tempo, limit turnovers, and dominate on defense which he has done. Elmarko Jackson has been excellent in his first two starts. The freshman is averaging 7 assists per game and adds a ton of playmaking to a team that already had enough. He will be key in this matchup.
Champions Classic Picks: Kansas -6.5, over 147.5
Kansas should control this game. Kentucky won’t have enough size or experience. The Jayhawks will force plenty of turnovers and push the pace. Kentucky is super talented but they are going to take some time to get everything sorted out. The lack of consistent three-point shooting is the limiting factor as usual.
LWOS Disclaimer: These are for entertainment purposes only. They are by no means guarantees, advice, or suggestions.