The 2018-19 college basketball season officially began Tuesday night with a slate headlined by the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. No. 4 Duke absolutely demolished No. 2 Kentucky in the nightcap, with top-ranked Kansas holding off No. 10 Michigan State in the first game of the night. Below are three things you need to know about Tuesday’s action.
1. DUKE MADE A MAJOR STATEMENT
No. 4 Duke’s matchup with No. 2 Kentucky was supposed to be the game of the night. Instead we ended up watching the basketball version of Ivan Drago vs. Apollo Creed, as the Blue Devils rolled to a 118-84 victory in what is the largest margin of defeat for a John Calipari-coached team (that includes his stints at UMass and Memphis). Freshmen R.J. Barrett (33 points, six assists, four rebounds), Zion Williamson (28 points, seven rebounds) and Cam Reddish (22 points) combined to score 83 points, with classmate Tre Jones dishing out a team-high seven assists.
Duke shot 54.4 percent from the field on the night, and Kentucky looked overwhelmed outside of freshman guard Keldon Johnson (23 points) and senior forward Reid Travis (22 points, seven rebounds). While top-ranked Kansas managed to open its season with a win, don’t be surprised if some voters put Duke atop their rankings ahead of Monday’s new polls. And they wouldn’t be wrong to do that either, because the Blue Devils looked that good.
2. KANSAS LOOKED EVERY BIT AS GOOD AS WE EXPECTED
It’s going to fly all the way under the radar because, you know, Duke actually is the Golden State Warriors, but the No. 1 Jayhawks looked like the No. 1 team in the country on Tuesday night. Despite the fact that Dedric Lawson, their best player, had one of those nights where he seemingly couldn’t get a single shot to drop, the Jayhawks still managed to take control and keep control in a 92-87 win over No. 10 Michigan State. It wasn’t until the final minutes that the Spartans, who resorted to ‘Hack-a-Doke’ down the stretch, made things interesting, and even then, they never actually had the ball with the lead down to a single possession.
Duke is going to deservedly be the No. 1 team in the country when the polls come out on Monday, but that doesn’t mean Kansas is anything less than what they were advertised as.
3. PLAYING WITHOUT PHIL COFER, NO. 17 FLORIDA STATE WHIPPED FLORIDA
Someone on staff made the bold prediction Monday that Florida could be the currently unranked team that gets to the Final Four. The Gators looked nothing like that kind of team Tuesday night, and a lot of credit for that should go to Florida State. Playing without senior forward Phil Cofer, the Seminoles beat the Gators by an 81-60 final score in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final margin would lead one to believe. Leonard Hamilton’s squad shot nearly 48 percent from the field, made 11 three-pointers and limited Florida to 37.0 percent shooting.
P.J. Savoy led three double-digit scorers with 20 points, and Trent Forrest played well with 13 points and a team-high five assists. Once Cofer returns, Florida State could be even better than anticipated…and many held this team in high regard even before Tuesday’s win. As for Florida, the biggest concern has to be the play of senior guard KeVaughn Allen. In 23 minutes of action Allen was scoreless, missing all four of his field goal attempts. Consistency has been an issue throughout his career, but unlike last year’s team Florida does not have much margin for error in that regard. Jalen Hudson (11 points on 3-for-10 shooting) wasn’t great either, but he at least produced something. Florida really needs Allen to be at his best consistently if they’re to hold their own in an improved SEC this season.
4. GARRISON BROOKS STEPS UP IN NO. 8 NORTH CAROLINA’S WIN AT WOFFORD
North Carolina, a team expected to contend in the ACC and nationally, boasts one of the nation’s best players in senior forward Luke Maye. But while much of the “who else will contribute in the front court” conversation has been focused on five-star freshman Nassir Little, another option stepped forward in North Carolina’s 78-67 win at Wofford. Sophomore Garrison Brooks played extremely well for the Tar Heels, shooting 9-for-15 from the field and finishing with 20 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. That contribution, along with the 24 and seven boards from Maye and Cameron Johnson’s 17 points, was enough to propel North Carolina past a Wofford team whose best scorer (Fletcher Magee) struggled from the field.
The point total represents a new career high for Brooks, who scored 14 in his collegiate debut against Northern Iowa last season. The key for the 6-foot-9 sophomore is to build on his standout performance, something he’ll have a chance to do when North Carolina takes on Elon Friday night.