Champions Classic 2023: Inside Duke-Michigan State, KU-Kentucky

For years, Jon Scheyer watched from the sidelines as Mike Krzyzewski led Duke against the premier teams in college basketball.

But Scheyer has left his mark on Duke’s program in his second season as head coach. With the recent signing of five-star prospect Cooper Flagg, a potential No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft, the 36-year-old head coach showed he can put Duke in a position to continue competing for more national titles. This is significant. With an icon like Krzyzewski associated with the program, there were concerns that Scheyer would not be able to escape that shadow.

Now it’s starting to look like Scheyer’s program. He has embraced the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) era. He is willing to acquire players from the transfer portal if they can help him win. And he has embraced the praise and doubts he has encountered since taking over from one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.

A win over Michigan State and Tom Izzo in the Champions Classic on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) would cement this new era at Duke. Scheyer is the youngest coach in the field that also includes Bill Self of Kansas and John Calipari of Kentucky, whose teams will face off in the nightcap (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But Scheyer has shown the confidence that he too can keep up with the best trainers in the industry.

As we prepare for a matchup between four of the sport’s most prominent programs, here’s why each of these coaches and their teams will – and won’t – win tonight.

7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Odds courtesy of ESPN BET: Duke (-2.5)



Kyle Filipowski scores 25 points in Duke’s season opener

Kyle Filipowski scores 25 points to help lead Duke to a 92-54 win over Dartmouth on Monday night.

Here’s how the Blue Devils will win: With an efficient shot from the backcourt. Kyle Filipowski is a Wooden Award contender and future NBA player. We already know what he’ll bring: He had 25 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block in Friday’s 78-73 home loss to Arizona. However, in the same game, Jeremy Roach, Jared McCain and Tyrese Proctor combined for 34 points on 12-for-31 shooting (5-for-14 from the 3-point line). The trio will have to be better overall to beat a team like Michigan State in the Champions Classic.

How the Blue Devils will lose: By avoiding baskets at the edge. In the team’s 92-54 season-opening win over Dartmouth last week, Dusan Neskovic (23 points) hurt the Blue Devils with several shots around the rim on backcuts inside. Days later, Oumar Ballo finished Arizona’s victory 6 for 12 (13 points) from inside the arc. If the Spartans attack the rim without much of a challenge, the Blue Devils could leave Chicago with another loss.



Tom Izzo isn’t afraid to change the starting lineup after losing to James Madison

Tom Izzo talks about what changes need to be made after Michigan State was upset at home by James Madison.

Here’s how the Spartans will win: With a strong defense from Mady Sissoko against Filipowski and a return to last season’s shooting success. Yes, 3-point ace Joey Hauser is gone, but three players who made at least 36% of their shots from long range in Big Ten games a season ago — AJ Hoggard, Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins — are back. Michigan State may not be as cold as it has been heading into the 2023-24 season.

How the Spartans will lose: The shots don’t fire. Last season, MSU shot 39.3% from the 3-point line, the No. 3 mark in America. In the first two games this season, Izzo’s team has won just 2 of 31. With Joey Hauser on the court last season, the team made 41% of its three-pointers, according to Hauser’s size and reach created spacing on the floor that Michigan State has seemingly lost so far this season. A continuation of the shooting drought could be just as damaging to the Spartans against Duke as it was in their season-opening loss to James Madison.

Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Odds courtesy of ESPN BET: Kansas (-4.5)



Dickinson and McCullar combine to make for a great first half for Kansas

Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. showed off their inner Splash Brothers by combining for 32 points in the first half for the Jayhawks.

Here’s how the Jayhawks will win: Kansas plays with offensive firepower that is unparalleled in college basketball. The presence of Hunter Dickinson (19.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 4-for-4 from 3 to 2 games) has created spacing for Bill Self’s offense, making the Jayhawks a complicated matchup for every team in America. They have combined for 188 points in their first two games. They face a young Kentucky team that may not be prepared for KU’s offensive attack.

How the Jayhawks will lose: They can’t cope with the one-on-one fights that can be seen in the game. Justin Edwards, DJ Wagner and Rob Dillingham are all projected first-round picks in the 2024 NBA Draft. And when John Calipari has elite playmakers, his teams are always dangerous. In two games, Great Britain was rated “outstanding” in man-to-man defense by Synergy Sports. The Wildcats have the edge in NBA prospects in this game, and that could be a deciding factor on Tuesday night.



DJ Wagner gets the steal and score for Kentucky

DJ Wagner gets the steal and score for Kentucky.

Here’s how the Wildcats will win: Because of DJ Wagner. The five-star freshman, who spent part of his high school career being the top prospect in his class, will be key against a Kansas team led by veteran guard Dajuan Harris Jr., the Helped team win national title in 2022. Wagner will have to match the energy and effort of Harris. He also needs to control the pace of this game and avoid costly turnovers. The talent around him will take care of the rest.

How the Wildcats will lose: There aren’t enough big bodies to throw at Dickinson. That has to be a concern as Kentucky prepares to face the 7-foot Wooden Award contender. With the addition of big players Aaron Bradshaw, Ugonna Onyenso and Zvonimir Ivisic this offseason, Calipari expected to have the size needed for this type of matchup. However, all three players are expected to be unavailable on Tuesday. Bradshaw and Onyenso are struggling with injuries and the approval process for Ivisic is still ongoing. Although 6-foot-10 West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell will carry the load for the Wildcats on the roster, a lack of depth up front could pose problems for Kentucky.

Bobby Allyn

Bobby Allyn is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Bobby Allyn joined USTimeToday in 2022 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Bobby Allyn by emailing

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