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Pregame Shootaround: The Champions Classic, two Gavitt Game showdowns

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble, AP Photo/Patrick Semansky


CHAMPIONS CLASSIC: No. 2 Kentucky takes on No. 13 Michigan State at 7:00 p.m. tonight with No. 1 Duke facing off with No. 7 Kansas in the nightcap of that matchup.

We wrote a long preview of the entire Tip-Off Marathon - including No. 5 Oregon visiting Baylor at 3:30 p.m. and Dayton squaring off with Alabama at 1:15 p.m. - so you can get our extended thoughts on those games here, but I did want to make one note: Harry Giles III, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden are not expected to play for Duke tonight. That’s three of the Blue Devils top four or five players that will not be available, meaning that the No. 1 team in the country will likely end up being an underdog against Kansas, who just so happens to be 0-1 after losing to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic.

I’m willing to bet that has never happened before.

MARYLAND at GEORGETOWN, 6:30 p.m.: First things first - whoever made the decision to schedule both of the Maryland-Georgetown games at the same time as the Champions Classic is a bad person. The Terps and the Hoyas have been caught in the middle of a Cold War for three decades before Maryland’s move to the Big Ten. So when the Gavitt Games swooped in and started a series between the Big Ten and the Big East, it only made sense to pit these two programs, with campuses 10 miles apart, against each other.

Tonight’s edition will be held at the Verizon Center, meaning there will likely be a large contingent of Maryland fans in attendance. It should be a terrific environment, which isn’t always the case in that building. As far as the game itself, Maryland struggled in their opener against Maryland but eventually pulled out the win thanks to 22 points from Melo Trimble. Rodney Pryor had 32 points, 26 in the first half, as the Hoyas debuted a full-court press in a blowout win over USC Upstate. It will be a fascinating matchup of styles tonight if Georgetown is truly going to dedicate themselves to this press.

  • Prediction: Maryland (+5.5). The Terps can control pace and has the guard play to handle Georgetown’s pressure and always play close games.

No. 9 WISCONSIN at No. 22 CREIGHTON, 8:30 p.m.: This is one of the most interesting matchups of all of non-conference play. Creighton is one of the best teams in the country no one is talking about. They have a loaded back courts with Mo Watson and Marcus Foster and enough depth and experience up front that they should be able to make a run at Villanova and Xavier atop the Big East.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, looked like the best team in the Big Ten entering the season, but with Indiana’s win over Kansas in Hawai’i and Purdue acquitting themselves fairly well in a home loss to reigning champs Villanova, the Badgers are something of the forgotten member of the league.

Bronson Koenig vs. Watson will be one of the best individual matchups we’ll see this month.

  • Prediction: Creighton (Pick ‘em). Creighton sells out an 18,000-seat arena every game. It will be rocking with the Badgers in town.

TOP 25

  • No. 1 Duke vs. No. 7 Kansas, 9:30 p.m.
  • No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 4 Oregon at Baylor, 3:30 p.m.
  • Long Beach State at No. 5 North Carolina, 8:00 p.m.
  • St. Francis (NY) at No. 8 Virginia, 7:00 p.m.
  • CSU Bakersfield at No. 10 Arizona, 10:00 p.m.
  • Holy Cross at No. 18 Syracuse, 7:00 p.m.