Game 1: Duke basketball versus Kentucky
The Duke Blue Devils will face the Kentucky Wildcats, who rank No. 10 to start the year, at 9:30 p.m. ET Tuesday as part of the Champions Classic in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
One could argue that the determining factor in Duke basketball’s success in 2021-22 is how the players respond to the added pressure, with this being Mike Krzyzewski’s swan song and all. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, though, the expectation of outperforming last season’s bunch isn’t too taxing in itself, not in light of the out-of-character dud that was 2020-21.
Judging solely by exhibition displays from Duke and Kentucky, some might expect the Blue Devils to steamroll the Wildcats right out of the gates. It’s hard to blame them when comparing the difference in highlights between Duke’s in-sync destruction of Winston-Salem State and Kentucky’s legit struggles against Miles College.
Others might think this Duke team has the firepower to replicate the instant 2018-19 explosion that featured Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones, who memorably silenced Kentucky to the tune of 118-84 in the Champions Classic.
Think again. Kentucky will be out for revenge against Duke with a different crop of five-star Wildcats, whose woes against Miles College probably taught them a thing or two. Meanwhile, John Calipari must be slyly strategizing to become the first to deliver Coach K a loss in his final season.
And while these Blue Devils have the potential to accomplish more than Zion & Friends, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for their best version to wait until the season’s end. Nonetheless, they should manage to take care of business in retaining the program’s bragging rights over Kentucky for at least another year.
Predicted final score: Duke 92, Kentucky 82
The Blue Devils move to 1-0 overall on the season.