Duke (2-0) vs Kentucky (2-0)
When: Tuesday, November 17th 2015
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
Time: 7:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Two Final Four caliber teams meet tonight in Chicago as the Kentucky Wildcats face defending NCAA Champions the Duke Blue Devils. These teams almost met in the title game last year, but Kentucky came up one game short when they lost to Wisconsin in the national semifinals. The Wildcats bring in another class of mostly one-and-dones led by 6’11” forward Skal Labissiere, who broke loose against NJIT on Saturday by scoring 26 points in just 21 minutes. Labissiere hit 10-of-12 shots from the floor and all six of his free throws. Guard Jamal Murray was limited to just 8 points on 3-of-13 shooting on Saturday, but had 19 points and 8 assists in the season opening win over Albany. Expect Kentucky’s guard play to be much better this year with the addition of Murray to go along with ‘veterans’ Tyler Ulis and Dominique Hawkins, who will both be used to change the tempo of games with their defensive pressure. This is Kentucky’s first test of the new season and they won’t see another tough contest until December 3rd when they visit UCLA.
This will also be Duke’s first test after they cruised past Siena and Bryant already. Sophomore Grayson Allen scored a career-high 28 points on Saturday, while freshman Brandon Ingram poured in 21. The frontcourt of Mason Plumlee and Amile Jefferson are as formidable as every and are combining to take down 20 rebounds a game thus far. The one problem Duke might have in the early going is their defense. They rank 209th in points allowed, 244th in FG%, and 327th in 3-point percentage on defense. Freshman Luke Kennard has seen plenty of playing time early on and the guard from Franklin, Ohio is shooting 52.9% so far, but has only hit 2-of-8 three-pointers. Duke will play VCU then either Georgetown or Wisconsin in the 2K Classic later this week, so tonight’s game will be a great test for them.
This should be a terrific early season marquee matchup in Chicago. Kentucky will no doubt be a factor come March, but Duke has the veteran leadership tonight and I think they will get the better of Kentucky this time around.
Pick: Duke +2.5