by Bill DiFilippo / @bflip33
College basketball’s biggest night certainly lived up to the substantial amount of hype.
At the third annual State Farm Champions Classic in Chicago on Tuesday night, basketball fans saw the game’s future stars face off and shine, as No. 2 Michigan State defeated No. 1 Kentucky, 78-74, and No. 5 Kansas beat No. 4 Duke, 94-83.
The tournament’s first game was fantastic, and featured a matchup of the country’s top two teams for the first time since 2008. Like in ’08, the No. 2 team defeated the John Calipari-led No. 1 team on Tuesday night in what will go down as one of college basketball’s best games of the season.
The Spartans were led by its dynamic backcourt of Keith Appling and Gary Harris. The duo combined for 42 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 7 steals, and constantly frustrated Kentucky’s inexperienced guards. Michigan State jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and never looked back, despite Kentucky fighting valiantly, particularly star freshman Julius Randle. The Dallas native showed why he’s a contender to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft with a 27-point, 13-rebound performance.
While the Wildcats were able to make things very interesting, even tying the game with 4:48 left to go, they were unable to overcome their early deficit, and by the time the polls are released next week, Michigan State will almost certainly be the No. 1 team in America.
The second game of the night was just as wild, with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker both exploding onto the national scene. While Parker had the better night—he had 27 points and 9 rebounds compared to 22 points and 8 rebounds for Wiggins—it was Wiggins’ Jayhawks coming away with the win.
The game was much closer than the score indicated. Much of the game was spent with neither team leading by more than five points until the very end, when Duke needed to start fouling in an attempt to keep the game close. However, behind Wiggins and a 24-point, 9-rebound performance from sophomore forward Perry Ellis, the Jayhawks came out on top.
Both games were fantastic, and college basketball fans should cross their fingers that we see these teams cross paths again sometime later this season.