College hoops are back, and NCAA fans are chomping at the bit for tonight’s Kentucky vs Duke powerhouse matchup. This will mark the first time the team has begun a season against a ranked opponent since 1996 when they competed against the No. 20 Clemson. And not only is Duke ranked–they’re a favorite to win the title in April.
It’ll be an explosive first outing for both teams, but Kentucky is the decided favorite to win this particular meeting–both teams have made headlines with top freshman recruits but Kentucky has the edge on experience. Stanford transfer Reid Travis is a game-changer for the Wildcats and will likely have a starting role–you don’t bring in a successful grad player like him without some big plans for how he’ll contribute–and UK has also retained top-tier talent in returning sophomores Quade Green and PJ Washington.
With their depth and experience, UK will be more than capable of rolling out several different lineups throughout the game. Though unlikely, they may even employ their “platoon system” of a few seasons past. It won’t be easy to dismantle Duke’s talented roster, and first-game jitters will likely get to both teams (and lead to a lot of foul trouble, mostly for Duke), but the matchup will pit two talented teams and their decorated coaches against each other for an opening night to remember.
All that being said, it hasn’t yet been revealed what the starting lineup for the Wildcats will be. But here’s what you can pretty safely expect when the two teams face off for the Champions Classic.
Projected Starting Lineup for Kentucky
Returning sophomore Quade Green could make his way into the starting lineup, but the guard tandem of Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley is more likely. Both players have a length and athleticism that will work well on both ends of the court, as well as skill with the ball that will make either of them a competent floor general.
Freshman Keldon Johnson will do well at the 3–his 6′ 6″ height combines with his quickness to make him a nightmare on defense, and his ball skills complement everything he does. He’ll likely take a starting role as a versatile small forward and boost the team’s energy with his motor and physicality.
Returner PJ Washington was often forced into the 5 role last season, but will likely see his time spent at the 4 tonight with the addition of Reid Travis. In this more versatile role he’ll be able to explore more of his skills and do more for the team away from the basket.
Travis, on that note, will hold down the paint and be a bully at the rim, using his physicality and experience to outmatch and outsmart other centers.
Kentucky Wildcats Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Ashton Hagans
- SG: Immanuel Quickley
- SF: Keldon Johnson
- PF: PJ Washington
- C: Reid Travis
The game will be live on ESPN tonight at 8:30 CST.