Seth Greenberg and LaPhonso Ellis preview Champions Classic


LaPhonso Ellis (left) and Seth Greenberg speak to reporters before the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

Ahead of the State Farm Champions Classic between No. 3 Kansas vs. Michigan State and No. 10 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Duke, ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and LaPhonso Ellis previewed the match up between the Blue Devils and the Wildcats just hours before the tip.

Seth Greenberg: 

I think the interesting thing is how Kentucky matches up with Paolo Banchero. They could play smaller with [AJ] Griffin with Banchero without [Mark] Williams as well.

For Duke, can you keep [Sahvir] Wheeler in control? Whether they match him up with Jeremy Roach or Trevor Keels—Wheeler is an easy basket creator. He’s the one guy on the perimeter that can get to the rim, draw two and make a play. Off the ball, they’ll probably play him more conservative. How they match up and contain Wheeler will be a huge focal point for Duke.

Right now, it looks like Keion Brooks is going to start for Kentucky. Kentucky is going to have to be physically strong enough to defend Banchero‘s post game and they’ll have to be fast enough to play well in the defensive transition game. Kentucky is going to have to cut Duke out of the glass. They’re going to have to be physical and quick with their rebounds. So, for Brooks, that’s going to be a challenge.

The front court of Kentucky—maybe Daimion Collins isn’t physically ready. Is it going to be Lance Ware? I think it’s going to be interesting just to watch what John Calipari does with the front court situation. 

This is a Kentucky team that’s going to make shots, though. You have Kellan Grady, who’s a 2,000 point scorer at Davidson. You look at CJ Fredrick, who hasn’t practiced a lot, but he’s a 47 percent three-point shooter throughout his career. TyTy Washington can shoot it and create something out of nothing.

This game has a chance to be really entertaining, but I wouldn’t walk away from this game with any conclusion of how Kentucky looks down the stretch. They’re a work in progress.

LaPhonso Ellis:

Oscar Tshiebwe is more of a rebounder that can run the floor hard and is kind of a drop-off finisher that. Mark Williams—similar. He has a bit more athleticism, length and range in his game. 

I think it’ll come down to whether or not Kentucky can keep defensive pressure to Duke; can they take care of the basketball? It’s my 13th season with ESPN, and Duke, when they’re playing their best, they play out in transition—they play fast. The better Kentucky can take care of the basketball, it takes away the transition game.

The second thing—shot selection. If you’re taking bad shots against Duke, they’re getting a dunk at the other end. For Kentucky to have a chance to win the basketball game, they’ve got to take care of the basketball and their shot selection is going to have to be excellent.

Kentucky-Duke tips off live from Madison Square Garden following the game against Kansas and Michigan State around 9:30 p.m. Follow @KyKernelSports on Twitter for all updates throughout the night.