How No. 2 Kentucky and No. 4 Duke match up at each position for Tuesday night’s Champions Classic in Indianapolis — with a game prediction:
▪ Kentucky’s PJ Washington is the Wildcats’ leading returning scorer (10.8 ppg) and rebounder (5.7 rpg). The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Dallas product averaged 16 ppg and 6.5 rpg in UK’s preseason exhibitions vs. Transylvania and Indiana University-Pennsylvania. If UK Coach John Calipari goes with a “big lineup” that uses Washington at the three, it will be interesting to see if the sophomore can succeed as a wing after playing on the post a season ago.
▪ Duke freshman Cam Reddish was the No. 3-ranked prospect in the 2018 Rivals 150. The 6-8, 218-pound product of Norristown, Pa., averaged 26.6 points and 5.6 rebounds as a senior at Westown School. Often described as a “forward with point guard skills,” Reddish had 12 assists vs. four turnovers in Duke’s exhibition wins over Virginia Union and Ferris.
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▪ Kentucky’s Reid Travis averaged 19.5 ppg and 8.7 rpg last season as a junior at Stanford. The 6-8, 238-pound graduate transfer should provide Kentucky with a maturity, both physically and emotionally, not often present on the Wildcats’ youthful, Calipari-era rosters. In UK’s two exhibition wins, the Minneapolis product averaged 17 ppg and 12 rpg.
▪ Duke freshman Zion Williamson was the No. 5 prospect in the class of 2018, according to Rivals. The 6-7, 285-pound product of Spartanburg, S.C., became a YouTube sensation at the Spartanburg Day School through videos of his ferocious dunks. In high school, Williamson averaged 36.4 ppg and 11.4 rpg. In Duke’s two exhibitions, he produced 26 ppg and 8 rpg.
▪ Kentucky’s Nick Richards started all 37 games a season ago as a freshman, but saw his playing time dwindle down the stretch. The 6-11, 244-pound product of Kingston, Jamaica, blocked 33 shots last season while averaging 5.1 ppg and 4.4 rpg. This fall, Richards averaged 10.5 ppg and 6 rpg in UK’s two exhibitions.
▪ Duke’s Marques Bolden was a perceived recruiting coup for Mike Krzyzewski when the 2016 McDonald’s All-American chose the Blue Devils over Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. In college, the 6-11, 250-pound junior has yet to get untracked. Last season, the DeSoto, Texas, product averaged 3.9 ppg and 3.6 rpg. In Duke’s two preseason exhibitions, he produced 10.5 ppg and 6 rpg.
▪ Kentucky’s Quade Green started 13 of the 34 games he appeared in last season as a freshman, and averaged 9.3 ppg and 2.7 assists. The 6-foot, 170-pound sophomore from Philadelphia hit 37.6 percent of his three-point tries a season ago, and will be counted on to supply the 2018-19 Wildcats with consistent outside shooting.
▪ Duke freshman RJ Barrett is the No. 1 player entering college basketball in 2018-19, according to Rivals. The 6-7, 202-pound Ontario, Canada, product has already taken down a John Calipari-coached team. He had 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to lead the Canadians to a 97-87 upset of the Cal-led Team USA in the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup semifinals. A left-hander said to have a near 7-foot wingspan, Barrett went for 23 and 32 points in Duke’s exhibitions.
▪ Kentucky freshman Immanuel Quickley was the No. 22 player in the 2018 Rivals 150 after averaging 20 ppg, 6 rpg and 6 assists in his senior season at The John Carroll School in Maryland. The 6-3, 185-pound Quickely enters 2018-19 considered the best “two-way point guard” — meaning proficient on both offense and defense — on the UK roster.
▪ Duke freshman Tre Jones was ranked 14th in the Rivals 150 after averaging 22.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 6.3 assists and 3.8 steals at Minnesota’s Apple Valley High School. He is the younger brother of Tyus Jones, who was the point guard for Duke’s 2015 NCAA championship team. In the Blue Devils’ two exhibitions this fall, Tre Jones has 18 assists vs. four turnovers.
▪ Kentucky’s depth should be its strength in 2018-19. Keldon Johnson, a sleek 6-6, 211-pound wing, was the No. 15 player in the Rivals 150 after averaging 22.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 4.4 assists last season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Shooting guard Tyler Herro, a 6-5, 195-pound freshman from Milwaukee, was the breakout performer of UK’s summer exhibition series in the Bahamas (team-best 17.3 ppg). Freshman EJ Montgomery, a 6-10, 225-pound big man, was the highest-rated 2018 Kentucky signee by Rivals at No. 11. The defensive tenacity and length of freshman guard Ashton Hagans, a 6-3, 192-pound product of Cartersville, Ga., could make him important Tuesday night.
▪ Duke power forward Javin DeLaurier, a 6-10, 234-pound junior, made five starts last season and averaged 3.4 ppg and 4 rpg. Wing Alex O’Connell, a 6-6, 183-pound sophomore, is a three-point shooting specialist who cashed 22 of 45 treys a season ago. Australian forward Jack White, a 6-7, 222-pound junior, averaged 5.5 ppg and 5 rpg in Duke’s two exhibitions.
History and intangibles
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Duke 12-9. However, under Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils hold the edge 5-2. As Kentucky head man, John Calipari is 1-1 against Duke. Given the proximity of Indianapolis to the Bluegrass State, the Big Blue Nation seems likely to be the dominant presence in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, potentially giving UK a “home-court advantage.”
Kentucky 82, Duke 79
Mark Story (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory