This year the college basketball season has already featured some extremely interesting matchups, however the one which everyone was talking about entering the game is the same one that people are continuing to talk about hours and hours after it was over; the #9 Duke Blue Devils impressive 75-68 victory over the #3 Kentucky Wildcats.
This game featured one team that will rely on the experience of its senior leadership to carry them throughout the long season in Duke while the other, Kentucky will need their talent level to overcome their inexperience this year if they have Final Four or National Championship aspirations as they do every year since John Calipari‘s arrival.
One thing which is evident after watching Duke look so efficient on both ends of the court during that game is they will be a tough team to beat this season and even with a preseason ranking of ninth in the nation they may be slightly underrated.
The Blue Devils two star seniors, guard Seth Curry and forward Mason Plumlee seemed like the ideal duo of inside-outside perfection last night combining for 41 points on just 14 of 22 shooting from the field. This team is only going to go as far as this duo leads them and if they can remain healthy it seems as if this duo can lead them to right back where they played last night, the Georgia Dome which is home of the 2013 Final Four.
Another aspect to factor in to Duke’s chances this season is that their freshmen players are much better than advertised. Entering the season there wasn’t much hoopla over the class that head coach Mike Krzyzewski recruited down to Durham this year, even still last night the youngsters looked pretty good. First-year guard Rasheed Sulaimon scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists in 33 minutes of action and if he along with fellow freshman Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson can improve on a game-to-game basis then the sky is the limit for coach K’s crew.
Switching focus to Kentucky, coach Cal’s crew of youngsters are always as good as advertised; there isn’t a better recruiter in college sports than John Calipari. The top recruit in the nation big-man Nerlens Noel looked extremely impressive scoring 16 points and pulling down eight boards along with four steals, three blocks and two assists; a completely stat line for a player who some scouts said was a one-trick pony when referring to his lack of an offensive game. Noel seemed not only aggressive when given the ball in the correct spots but also completely sure of himself at the free throw line as well where he knocked down six of his eight attempts.
The star of the game for Kentucky in my opinion was none other than the supposedly the third best freshman of the group, forward Alex Poythress who looks NBA-ready right now and good develop into a higher-skilled version of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Poythress led the Wildcats in scoring last night with 20 points and also grabbed eight rebounds while shooting 75% from the field.
It wasn’t just his numbers that impressed me about this kid, it was everything from how effortless he seemed when making things happen on the court to his already grown-man physique of 6’7″, 239 pounds. Poythress is going to be the key for this Kentucky team this season, if he can continue to grow as a leader then anything is possible for this kid and this team.
These two teams could very easily meet again later down the road this season; one thing is for certain these two prestigious universities need to ensure that 11 years doesn’t pass by again before the meet again, last night’s game was just simply too amazing to let such a travesty occur.