On Tuesday, Nov. 12, the stars will align and the Champions Classic will commence. Four of the top five teams in the country will go head to head, and the college basketball community will receive an early look at how national title contenders stack up.
The question is, which players do you need to watch once the games begin?
|The Champions Classic|
|Date||Time (ET)||Road Team||Home Team|
|Tuesday, Nov. 12||7:30 p.m.||Michigan State||Kentucky|
|Tuesday, Nov. 12||9:30 p.m.||Kansas||Duke|
|Games to be played in Chicago|
Julius Randle, Kentucky Wildcats
The Kentucky Wildcats have enough star power to fuel the overanxious hype surrounding the weak SEC. If you could only pick one player to watch at the next level, it'd be hybrid forward Julius Randle.
Consider him to be a more fundamentally sound version of current Detroit Pistons star Josh Smith.
Randle is a powerful player with explosive athleticism and a relentless pursuit of the rim on both ends of the floor. He can make an impact defensively, slash and throw down monster dunks, work out of the post or spot up for a jumper.
His game isn't perfect, but there's all-star upside with this kid.
Against Michigan State, Randle will have the opportunity to go up against Adreian Payne. Both players are dynamic offensive weapons who have NBA upside, and that makes for the best one-on-one matchup of the Tom Izzo versus John Calipari battle.
If not Randle, try one of Kentucky's other umpteen NBA prospects.
Gary Harris, Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans have a cast of veteran players with March Madness experience. No individual has as much NBA upside as sophomore shooting guard Gary Harris.
When Michigan State battles Kentucky, look for Harris to shine.
For those who are unfamiliar, Harris is a 6'4" and 210-pound swingman. He's the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and has a mix of elite defensive upside and a rapidly developing offensive skill set.
Harris started the 2013-14 season with style.
The sophomore finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a steal on 7-of-15 shooting from the field, 4-of-10 from beyond the arc and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe against McNeese State. This comes after he averaged 12.9 points on 41.1 percent shooting from distance in 2012-13.
Harris will have the opportunity to pick up some momentum in this one.
Jabari Parker, Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils made waves this past recruiting season when Mike Krzyzewski landed super-recruit Jabari Parker. The hybrid forward had been gracing magazine covers and appearing in YouTube videos for years before finally becoming a senior and has been compared to some of the NBA's greats.
So far, Parker's done nothing but impress.
In his college debut, Parker torched Davidson for an extraordinarily efficient 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. He was 3-of-3 from three-point range, 3-of-4 from the free-throw line and picked up six rebounds, two assists and a block in just 23 minutes.
In case you didn't know, the kid can play.
Parker isn't an explosive athlete, but he has the build, power and skills to work out of the post. The key is that he's extremely polished on offense with a reliable jump shot and work on the glass that should create second chances.
How better for Parker to prove himself than to shine against his unwritten rival?
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks
The basketball gods gave us an early-season treat with Duke squaring off against Kansas. Not only does this pit Coach Krzyzewski against Bill Self, but it puts the two biggest names in college basketball on the court at the same time.
Duke has Parker, and Kansas has Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins is the most sought-after prospect since LeBron James, being named the all-but-unanimous favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA draft. He pairs a combination of elite physical gifts with a set of well-rounded skills on both ends.
Whether he's locking his man down or rising over him for a jumper, Wiggins is a threat to strike at any moment.
He and Parker play entirely different games, but they're both fundamentally sound players with defensive upside. Wiggins doesn't rely on his athleticism, but the fact that he can bounce around the court makes him all the more dangerous.
Prepare for a day of college basketball that will preview the future of the NBA.