Tuesday night was a big night for anyone who is a fan of college basketball. Tuesday was officially the start of the 2018-2019 college basketball season. Opening night featured many big games, such as #1 Kansas versus #10 Michigan State and the game everyone was looking forward to, #2 Kentucky versus #4 Duke.
There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Duke vs. Kentucky game because it features two elite level coaches in Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari. Any time two teams like this are going to meet, you expect a very good game with top level college athletes that will come down to the wire. Both teams are known to pull in top level recruiting classes that feature players that are usually one-and-done in college and continue their careers into the NBA.
This year was an especially good year of recruiting by Coach K, as the Blue Devils landed the top three recruits in the 2018 class in R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish. The hype around the team is very real, as they have high expectations for the Duke team this year, but many believe the hype may be too much for the freshmen to handle.
In their debut on Tuesday night, the freshman class of Duke proved to be the real deal. Duke came out firing as they started 4-4 from the field. Duke was draining shot after shot in a variety of ways as production came from several different players. At halftime, they led by 17, which kind of came as a shock to many. Just to prove the first half was no fluke, Duke doubled their lead in the second half to pull off a 34-point win over the number two team in the nation.
The final score was 118-84, with 33 points coming from Barrett, 28 from Williamson, and 22 from Reddish. Clearly the big three of Blue Devil nation came out to show that they were the real deal. They combined for a total of 83 points, which was just one point off the total number of points scored by the entire UK team. As a team, Duke had a total of 19 made layups and eight dunks. They scored on two out of every three possessions, had 22 assists on 54 made field goals, and committed only four turnovers.
Not only did the offense show up for Duke, but their defense showed up as well by recording 10 steals and forcing more than 15 turnovers. Yes, they allowed 84 points, but when the offense is putting up the numbers they are right now it shouldn’t be a problem.
After the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari said he told his players, “I got out-coached. You got out-played.” He also talked about the lack of defense by his team saying, “Either they are the greatest ball-handling team in the history of basketball, or we aren’t creating enough havoc.” Clearly Calipari feels his team is much better than they showed Tuesday night, and they are going to use this game as a boost to push them to get better for the rest of the season.
Duke clearly showed Tuesday night that they are going to be a team that will be difficult to beat and a high contender for the national championship. The only question is, can an elite coach like Coach K take a young elite team like this all the way for another national championship for Duke?