Kentucky normally gets a couple of warm-up bouts before entering the Champions Classic. Next season the annual event featuring college basketball bluebloods Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State will tip off the 2018-19 campaign.
Not only that, but the season will start three days earlier than normal after the NCAA’s Division I Council approved a proposal Wednesday to move up the start of the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons to the Tuesday immediately before the second Friday in November.
That places the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6. This year’s event will take place in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Kentucky will face Duke, and Michigan State will take on Kansas.
“The Champions Classic has been the gold standard for college basketball’s regular-season events for the last seven years, but I love what we’re doing to use it to tip off the basketball season,” UK Coach John Calipari said in a news release. “What better thing for our sport than to begin the year with four of the most successful programs in college basketball. Now, it might not be the best thing for my team, but the good news is we’ll all be learning about our teams at the same time while taking this thing to the next level. I know our fans will turn Indianapolis blue next fall.”
The Champions Classic will be in its eighth season in 2018 with Kentucky and Duke leading the way with 4-3 records. Kansas and Michigan State are 3-4 in the series.
Since the Champions Classic began in 2011, all four teams have reached the NCAA Final Four at least once, with Kentucky and Duke winning national titles, in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Over the last 14 games of the Classic, there have been 13 top-25 matchups, including two games featuring No. 1 vs. No. 2 (according to the AP Top 25).
The four schools feature a combined 18 NCAA titles — Kentucky (eight), Duke (five), Kansas (three) and Michigan State (two) and a total of 56 Final Four appearances.
UK has played Duke in the Champions Classic two times. The Blue Devils defeated the Wildcats 75-68 in 2012 in Atlanta but Kentucky beat Duke 74-63 in 2015 in Chicago.
The Wildcats lead the all-time series vs. Duke 12-9.
Duke has signed the top two recruits in the class of 2018 in R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. The Blue Devils have also signed five-star point guard Tre Jones, the brother of former Blue Devil Tyus Jones and the No. 1 point guard in the 247Sports composite rankings. All three players are McDonald’s All-Americans.
The NCAA moved the start of the season in hopes of creating more scheduling flexibility for schools during the non-conference portion of the year, which conflicts with football. Also, the hope is that schools will have more flexibility in scheduling off days for athletes.