Ultimate Champions Classic rankings

9:00 AM ET

The 2017-18 college basketball season started on Friday, but Tuesday’s Champions Classic in Chicago is the year’s first true headliner.

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 5 Kentucky at the United Center (Coverage begins at 7 ET on ESPN) is a Final Four-like pairing of four programs with the potential to end the season in April atop the stage in San Antonio. The event will also feature future lottery picks: Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III.

It’s the proper kickoff to the college basketball season. But how do you separate four remarkable programs? Well, we’re here to try in our Ultimate Rankings for the Champions Classic.

We’ve ranked the four teams in the Champions Classic according to the following criteria: current talent, legacy, mascot, recruiting, success in the one-and-done era, head coach, staff, fans, home venue, uniforms and NBA alumni.

We’ve used a simple points system to compile our rankings: 1st (four points), 2nd (three points), 3rd (two points) and 4th (one point).

Feel free to disagree. (We know you will.)

Also, lighten up.

Duke has a full roster, which is going to make it tough on opponents all year long. Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports1. Duke Blue Devils

TOTAL POINTS: 34

Current talent (1st): Anchored by ESPN.com’s No. 1 recruiting class — headed by Marvin Bagley III — and the return of Grayson Allen, Duke has the strongest team in the country right now. The Blue Devils boast a group that’s favored to win the national championship.

Legacy (2nd): Mike Krzyzewski is the most important figure in Duke basketball history. But the Blue Devils played in four Final Fours before the school hired him in 1980.

Mascot (2nd): Just make sure security is vigilant whenever The Blue Devil gets near Sparty in Chicago. They’re both juicing.

Recruiting (2nd): Under Krzyzewski, Duke has competed for national championships since the 1980s. Plus, he’s the only coach who has knocked Kentucky down to No. 2 in ESPN.com’s recruiting rankings since Calipari’s arrival (2014, 2015 and 2017).

Uniforms (2nd): The black uniforms are the best in their collection. They should wear those every game.

Success in the one-and-done era (1st): Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are the only active coaches with multiple national titles in the one-and-done era. And Duke has earned championships during that stretch with both veterans (2010) and freshman stars (2015).

Head coach (1st): Krzyzewski picked up his 1,000th win at Duke last week, and he has kept the Blue Devils relevant and competitive for nearly four decades. The program has missed just one NCAA tournament since 1984 under Krzyzewski, the greatest coach in college basketball history.

Staff (1st): Jeff Capel deserves credit for his under-the-radar work as Krzyzewski’s top assistant and the key to the talent pipeline Duke has enjoyed in the one-and-done era. With Nate James, Jon Scheyer and Capel, Duke possesses three capable assistants who could all secure head-coaching opportunities in the near future.

Fans (4th): If you dislike their squad, they assume it’s because you’re a hater, your team stinks and you’re jealous of their success. And they’ll tell you that to your face while they camp out for season tickets.

Home venue (3rd): It feels like you’re watching a basketball game while twirling in a washing machine whenever you’re at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Someone will spill something on you before leave, but you won’t complain because that’s the price of attending a matchup at this nostalgic venue.

NBA alumni (2nd): The Blue Devils have produced former NBA veterans such as Johnny Dawkins, All-Stars such as Grant Hill and current standouts such as Kyrie Irving. Longevity is the greatest trait of Duke’s NBA talent, with Hill topping a list of a dozen Blue Devils who’ve been coached by Krzyzewski and played in the NBA for a decade or more.

John Calipari just reloads at Kentucky. This year, it might take longer than normal for the players to feel comfortable. Andy Lyons/Getty Images2. Kentucky Wildcats

TOTAL POINTS: 30

Current talent (4th): John Calipari has one of the youngest teams of his tenure, but this is an intriguing group that will overwhelm many opponents with its athleticism. Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo & Co. entered the season as the favorites to win the SEC.

Legacy (1st): Kentucky, the winningest program in Division I history with 2,237 victories, has won eight national titles. Calipari’s arrival extended the school’s successful tradition, commenced by legendary coach Adolph Rupp in the 1940s.

Mascot (3rd): The Wildcat is always looking for a fight. Don’t test him.

Recruiting (1st): Since accepting the job in 2009, Calipari has finished first or second in ESPN.com’s recruiting rankings every season. He’s the most successful assembler of talent in the one-and-done era, and it’s not close.

Uniforms (4th): So much blue in the Champions Classic. Kentucky’s uniforms don’t have the same pizazz as the others, though.

Success in the one-and-done era (2nd): Calipari has led this program to a quartet of Final Fours, and his Anthony Davis-led group won the national championship in 2012. Kentucky is usually a threat to win it all.

Head coach (3rd): If coaching young stars were simple, then Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz would have led LSU and Washington, respectively, to the NCAA tournament. Calipari rebuilds every season and still manages to enter the postseason with a shot at the national championship most years.

Staff (2nd): Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMarcus Cousins will all tell you associate head coach Kenny Payne’s guidance helped them blossom into elite big men. Tony Barbee is a former Division I head coach and Joel Justus is a recent addition who is helping Kentucky remain attractive to top-10 recruits and analyze players with analytics and next-level tools.

Fans (3rd): They’ll follow their Wildcats anywhere and support them with a passion no fan base can match. But they’re also sometimes unreasonable and ridiculous.

Home venue (1st): In a big game, the Rupp Arena crowd emits a sound that shakes everything in the building. With 23,500 wild Kentucky fans screaming for two halves, opponents often Read More…

Via:: NDTV – Sports

      

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