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Andy Wittry | | December 1, 2020

2020 Champions Classic preview: Kentucky vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Michigan State

Andy Katz's March Madness predictions

One of the most anticipated regular-season events of the men's basketball calendar is the Champions Classic, which puts four of the most decorated programs in the sport against each other. This year's matchups are No. 7 Kansas vs. No. 20 Kentucky and No. 8 Michigan State at No. 6 Duke.

Here's everything you need to know about the Champions Classic.

Champions Classic date, times, TV info

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 1
Times: Michigan State at Duke at 7:30 p.m. ET (Live stats), Kansas vs. Kentucky at 9:30 p.m. ET (Live stats)
Locations: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Durham, NC); Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
TV channel: ESPN

Champions Classic records, history

The Champions Classic is in its 10th season after beginning in 2011. Here is each team's record in the event through the first nine years:

  • Duke: 6-3
  • Kentucky: 5-4
  • Kansas: 4-5
  • Michigan State: 3-6

The only school that hasn't beaten one of the other three schools in the event is Michigan State, which is 0-3 against Duke in the Champions Classic. The Spartans will try to get off the schneid this year.

Kentucky is 2-1 against Kansas.

Champions Classic preview, matchups to watch

Like many sporting events this year, the Champions Classic will a little different than usual. Typically scheduled for the opening night of the season, it's now scheduled for early December after every team has already played at least one game. And while the event is a doubleheader, the two games will not be played in the same location due to COVID-19 protocols.

Michigan State will travel to Duke in the first game, then Kansas and Kentucky will square off in Indianapolis once the first game is over. The nightcap, by the way, will feature two .500 teams as Kansas lost its season opener to No. 1 Gonzaga and Kentucky lost at home to Richmond on Sunday.

RECAP: How No. 1 Gonzaga ran away from No. 6 Kansas in a battle of top-10 teams

Michigan State (2-0) at Duke (1-0)

Duke has provided the smallest sample size of the four teams in terms of what its team will look like this season as the Blue Devils' only game so far was their home opener against Coppin State, following the cancellation of a game against Gardner-Webb.

Duke led by 17 at half but only won by 10, 81-71. Freshman forward Jalen Johnson finished one point and one rebound shy of a 20-20 game, and he also had five assists and four blocks, as the early returns suggest he might be the Blue Devils' latest freshman star. But he'll have to contend for that honor with teammate and classmate D.J. Steward, who had 24 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

Johnson started alongside four returning players — Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker, Wendell Moore Jr. and Matthew Hurt, giving the Blue Devils some experience in addition to another wave of talented freshmen. Duke committed 22 turnovers in its season opener, including seven from Johnson, and the Blue Devils missed 6-of-10 free throws, which they'll have to clean up against a better team in Michigan State.

The Spartans won their pair of opening-week games against Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame — both by double digits. They've displayed a balanced scoring attack, with four players who are averaging at least 10 points per game so far (led by Marquette transfer Joey Hauser at 12.5 points per game) and four more who are averaging between five and nine points. Surprisingly Hauser, who was a strong 3-point shooter at Marquette, is 0-for-6 on the season in an admittedly limited sample size but new starting point guard Foster Loyer has hit six through two games.

Kansas (1-1) vs. Kentucky (1-1)

Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats will enter this matchup licking their Week 1 wounds, to a degree. Both teams have a 12-point loss on their resume and there's not necessarily shame in either, as Kansas was on the receiving end of top-ranked Gonzaga's 77-percent 2-point shooting and Kentucky fell at home to a Richmond squad that identified in the preseason as one of the March Madness contenders that was among the most likely teams to pick up where they left off last spring.

Kansas has since beaten Saint Joseph's 94-72 and Kentucky previously defeated Morehead State 81-45.

The Wildcats' 0-for-10 3-point shooting certainly contributed to their loss to Richmond, as did 13 missed free throws and 21 turnovers. This is a team that returned less than eight percent of its minutes from last season and some early growing pains were probably to be expected.

Through two games, freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr. is the team's leading scorer at 15 points per game and three other players are averaging at least 10 points per game. Transfer Olivier Sarr had a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double in Sunday's loss.

While Kansas returned more key players than Kentucky — namely, reigning NABC Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Garrett and wings Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun. Braun is leading the team in scoring through two games at 19 points per night, just ahead of Agbaji at 17.5. Freshman guard Bryce Thompson and redshirt freshman forward Jalen Wilson are two newcomers to watch on the Jayhawks side.

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