Champions Classic 2015: Teams, Schedule, Live Stream, TV Info and Predictions

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 04: Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans handles the ball against Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils in the first half during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Four of the top college basketball programs in the nation will be in action in one spot at the 2015 Champions Classic.

Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Kansas will compete in the annual event, which features three of the Final Four teams from last season. Although all of these squads lost key players from last year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see any of them contend for a national title again this season.

Between quality teams, legendary coaches and tons of future NBA talent, there is a lot to watch in these two games. Here is everything you need to know about Tuesday's doubleheader.

Kentucky vs. Duke

Nov 13, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray (23) goes up for a dunk against the Albany Great Danes in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

When: Tuesday, Nov. 17

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: United Center, Chicago

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Live Stream: Watch ESPN

These teams look different than last season, but both teams are expecting big contributions from freshmen and little-used reserves from last year.

One of the players who didn't get many minutes a year ago is Duke sophomore Grayson Allen. The former McDonald's All-American was overshadowed by bigger freshman stars last season, but he had a huge contribution in the national championship game with 16 points in a win over Wisconsin.

That performance has fueled him to a big start to his sophomore campaign. Seth Davis of CBS Sports discussed his huge start to the year:

Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops

Grayson Allen has 20 pts and 5 Rebs with 2 mins left in first half. Guess that championship game was no fluke.

In two games, Allen has 54 total points on 16-of-31 shooting. He has also made big plays like this:

CBS Sports CBB @CBSSportsCBB

Grayson Allen dunked all over Siena and it was incredible. The Vine of the night here: https://t.co/nM1tD8Un11 https://t.co/fzx3RTrIWD

Add in big contributions from freshman Brandon Ingram and senior Amile Jefferson, and it's clear there wasn't much drop-off after winning a national championship.

Of course, Kentucky also reloaded with top freshmen Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe. These players have made immediate impacts, and despite their youth, each can be among the best in the nation at their positions.

As far as returning players, Tyler Ulis and Marcus Lee didn't put up huge numbers in the first two games but are capable of big things. The 5'9" Ulis is one of the best pure point guards in college basketball with elite quickness and vision, while Lee has the tools to be a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder in the post.

Even without a platoon system like last year, there is a lot of talent on the roster with a deep enough group to compete with anyone in the nation.

Although both young squads will likely be much better by the end of the season, this will be a meaningful battle that gives the winner a lot of confidence going forward.

In the end, though, this game will come down to which team can defend the other. Kentucky has versatile defenders like Murray, Lee and Alex Poythress to slow down Duke's stars, but Ulis' quickness and Labissiere's inside scoring will be a problem for the Blue Devils. This will be enough for the Wildcats to pull out a close win.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Duke 71

Kansas vs. Michigan State

Mar 22, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) reacts in the game against the Wichita State Shockers during the first half in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA T
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When: Tuesday, Nov. 17

Time: 10 p.m. ET

Where: United Center, Chicago


Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Michigan State will need contributions from a lot of players this year, but the key to the team will be the play of Denzel Valentine. The senior can truly do it all, almost accumulating a triple-double in his first game of the year with 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. 

Unlike many of the one-and-done players in college basketball, the guard has worked to improve in a variety of areas to overcome his physical limitations. He explained his mindset heading into the season, per Joe Rexrode of USA Today:

My athleticism is always going to be the 'con' of my game, but I just have to improve that with lifting, agility drills, conditioning. …

I might not have the best numbers or best vertical, best lateral ability, whatever you want to say. But at the end of the day, I'm going to go out and compete, give it my all and try to beat my opponent. It's worked so far.

As good as he can be, however, Michigan State will need more production from guards Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris for the team to compete at a high level this season. Deyonta Davis and Matt Costello had strong performances in the first game, but the scoring guards alongside Valentine will be the key to the season.

Kansas won't have to worry as much about specific players thanks to having one of the deepest teams in the nation. While the team is still hoping to have Cheick Diallo eligible, the Jayhawks are fine without him for now.

Frank Mason, Devonte Graham and Wayne Selden create a versatile starting backcourt that can score in a variety of ways as well as play strong defense. Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk also provide different looks coming off the bench. 

In the frontcourt, Perry Ellis is the best offensive weapon, but there are a few valuable contributors who can defend and rebound at a high rate. Fran Fraschilla of ESPN had high praise for the roster:

Fran Fraschilla @franfraschilla

Not as good as 2008 National Champions but this is Kansas' deepest team since then. Selden, Jr.'s ability to be a star may hold key to year.

The biggest question on this squad is figuring out which player will be the go-to option when needed late in games. Mason might be the one you want with the ball in his hands, but this is where too much depth might almost be a problem.

In reality, this won't be an issue until later in the year because the Jayhawks have the size, talent and experience to cause problems for the Spartans from beginning to end in this matchup. 

Prediction: Kansas 77, Michigan State 65

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for more year-round sports analysis. 

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