Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs Kansas Jayhawks (Champions Classic)

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NOV. 5 | MADISON SQUARE GARDEN | NEW YORK, N.Y. | 7:00 P.M.

Series Info

Overall: 13th meeting; Duke leads, 7-5
In Durham: Duke leads, 1-0
In Lawrence: Duke leads, 1-0
At neutral sites: Tied, 5-5
Current streak: Kansas, 3-0
Coach K vs. Kansas: 7-5

Media Info

TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman/Jay Bilas/Holly Rowe)
WatchESPN
Radio: Blue Devil Sports Network (David Shumate/John Roth) Duke Radio Affiliates
National Radio: ESPN (Mark Kestecher/Bob Valvano)
Sirius/XM: 84 / 84 (Duke broadcast); 80 / 80 (national)

Having the first real game of the season be such a monumental affair can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Last year, with the drubbing that the Blue Devils delivered to Kentucky in the Champions Classic - they could only really go down from that high. The result of this Champions Classic game, whether it's a win or a loss, should be a good jumping off point for the Duke coaching staff on what to address and a learning opportunity for the freshmen on this squad. Their first introduction into high level competition. It should be fun.

The Opponent:

Just like Duke, Kansas has a lot to replace in terms of production, including losing their 2 leading scorers ( Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick) and their leading rebouder (also Dedric Lawson). They do return a monster in the middle in Udoka Azubuike who when healthy and not in foul trouble is as tough in the paint as any player in college basketball. Azubuike averaged 1.6 blocks a game in his 9 games last season and 13.4 points and at 7 feet, 270 pounds he is a force. The Jayhawks also return leading assist man Devon Dotson to the backcourt, the 6'2 guard out of Charlotte, NC averaged 3.5 assists to go along with his 12.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Dotson shot 36.3% from beyond the arc last season as well.

It's a different team than the one who lost to the Auburn Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year but still a team that likes to get out and run. Much like Duke their offense runs best when they are getting in the passing lanes and creating easy transition opportunities. While Kansas is not an old team they are old by current high major program standards - they will probably start 3 sophomores, a junior and a senior in Azubuike. Kansas has looked, at least on the offensive end so far, to be much more polished than the Blue Devils but it remains to be scene who will show up for either team in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

Player to Watch:

Obviously there isn't a whole lot we can glean from exhibition games but the player to watch for Kansas so far would be Ochai Agbaji. The 6'5 sophomore has been impressive on both ends of the floor so far for the Jayhawks and has lead the team in scoring averaging 20ppg in the 2 Jayhawk exhibition games.

My Synopsis:

With both teams looking to get out in transition it could be the team that plays better in the half court, and the team that commits the least amount of turnovers that takes this game. Duke will need to grow up in a hurry from their 2 exhibition games as Kansas is a different level of competition. Defensively it will begin and end with Tre Jones putting pressure on the ball. Duke's perimeter defense as a whole will need to be better as Kansas has slashers that will look to beat the Blue Devil guards off the bounce - keeping the guards in front will be huge for Duke as well as keeping Javin DeLaurier and Vernon Carey out of foul trouble and in the game.

Offensively, the question facing the Blue Devils is when they need a bucket, who can they depend on? Will it be Matthew Hurt? Vernon Carey? It's unclear who will establish themselves as THE GUY, and in truth, there may not be A GUY. It could be different each time down the court, it could be different from game to game. Against Kansas Duke needs to test Azubuike early, if the Blue Devils can saddle the big man with foul trouble early that would bode well for Duke's overall chances to win. If the Blue Devils can knock down some shots from the perimeter, which is far from a given, they could open up some lanes for either Cassius Stanley or Wendell Moore to penetrate and test the Kansas bigs at the rim or dish to Vernon or Javin underneath. 

This will be a good measuring stick for the Blue Devils going forward to see what they do well and what they need to improve on. Regardless of the result the first game of the season does not dictate the season - it is but a snapshot to either be improved upon or encouraged by.

Probable Starting Lineups

Duke

Guard - Tre Jones - 6'3, 185lbs
Guard - Cassius Stanley - 6'6, 193lbs
Guard - Wendell Moore - 6'6, 213lbs
Forward - Matthew Hurt - 6'9, 214lbs
Center - Vernon Carey - 6'10, 270lbs

Kansas

Guard - Marcus Garrett - 6'5, 195lbs
Guard - Devon Dotson - 6'2 - 185lbs
Guard - Ochai Agbaji - 6'5 - 210lbs
Forward - David McCormack - 6'10 - 265lbs
Center - Udoka Azubuike - 7'0 - 270lbs

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