With the preseason polls starting to roll out as the college basketball season gets closer and closer, Kentucky almost always finds itself occupying one of the top 2 spots with the Spartans of Michigan State taking the other; while some pollsters believe that Kentucky’s youth will be trumped by its ridiculous talent, others aren’t so sure and believe that Michigan State’s experience will win over. The great thing about this year’s season is that we won’t have to wait too long to end the debate. Assuming Kentucky can survive UNC-Asheville and Northern Kentucky and Michigan State can squeak by McNeese State, UK and MSU will more than likely get to Chicago and the State Farm Champion’s Classic as the top two teams in college basketball.
This rare occurrence doesn’t happen very often, but with the perfect storm of circumstances (UK’s recruiting class plus a huge non-conference game very early in the season), the hype surrounding the Champion’s Classic should be at the highest of levels. College basketball usually takes a backseat to the powerhouse that is college football until February, March Madness and the Final Four in April. This game, however, will be too big to downplay, as two of the sport’s best coaches take their teams head on for the rights to the #1 spot going forward.
Speaking of the coaches, the last 1 vs. 2 came way back in 2008 (I didn’t even have Twitter!) when Bruce BBQ Pearl’s Volunteers took on Calipari’s Memphis squad – UT prevailed in a close one, 66-62. Before that, Tom Izzo found himself in a battle with Duke in the 1999 Final Four, losing to the Blue Devils 68-62. Both coaches have been in these games before and I’m sure both will downplay the importance of it due to its early place on the schedule (and they may have a point; win or lose, both teams are going to make deep tournaments runs). Despite all of that, there is no question that these games rarely come around (only has has happened 38 times since 1949) and at the end of the contest, one of the coaches will have finally won their 1 vs. 2 matchup, and have a team taking (or defending) the top spot. For what it’s worth, it pays to go into the game #1 – 21 of the 38 previous contests were won by the #1 team.