ESPN’s College Hoops Marathon is underway, and what an awesome way to mark the official start of the college basketball season. Virginia and Baylor have already been upset by George Washington and Oregon respectively (showing the awesome power of home court advantage, especially against young, still-gelling college teams) and there are a TON of awesome matchups slated for tonight. The focus will be on New York for Duke vs. Kentucky and Michigan State vs. Kansas, but games like Oklahoma at Memphis, Georgetown at Maryland, Wichita State at Tulsa and Valpo vs. Rhode Island are must-see affairs as well. The biggest challenge for today was narrowing it down to the game to write about – and since it is easily THE marquee game of the day, and perhaps the season, let’s talk Duke vs. Kentucky.
Enjoy the marathon, and be assured that we will be running the TRUE college hoops marathon; covering games daily all season long until we cut down the nets in April. Let’s make it a fun, entertaining, and most importantly – profitable season.
Today’s Free Pick:
Duke Blue Devils vs. Kentucky Wildcats -2.5
Does it get any better than this? Seriously, we get to start the season with Duke and Kentucky on a neutral floor in the northeast? Can Christian Laettner please stomp on my rapidly-beating heart??? This is seriously a fantastic way to jumpstart interest and get a great gauge for how quickly the two elite programs in the country have reloaded.
Duke lost their three top scorers and top players, all freshman, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor. But, emerging sophomore Grayson Allen appears ready to take up the perimeter scoring mantle, and freshman Brandon Ingram is the next elite Duke star and a possible #1 pick in the upcoming Lottery. Duke is going to look a little different this year. They are BIG with Marshall Plumlee back for the 82nd consecutive year of Plumlee’s at Duke and freshman Antonio Vrankovic give them a pair of seven-footers. However, it may limit some of the team quickness and defensive versatility of last year’s team.
Kentucky has a tantalizing blend of vets and freshman talent. It isn’t as loaded as last year’s team, but it also isn’t as erratic as the 2013 blend either. Skal Labassiere is a legit Lottery pick, and James Murray lit up the globe in international competition this summer, bursting on the scene as another potential Lottery pick. But the key for Kentucky, especially tonight, is the continuity the return in Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress and Tyler Ullis. It gives them the veteran presence to solidify the freshman talent. That’s a good mix, especially for “bright lights” games like tonight.
I think Kentucky is more athletic and a little more seasoned. That should give them the edge needed tonight to get past a uber-talented Duke team. This has great-game potential, but I’ll take the Wildcats tonight on the neutral floor.