CHICAGO (WTVD) -- As it stands right now, Duke and Kentucky are the biggest dogs on the college basketball block, and it figures to stay that way given the ridiculous recruiting dominance that Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari are currently enjoying. That made for a titanic early season showdown on Tuesday night. Recruiting battles are one thing, but victory on the court is the true measure of superiority. The Blue Devils won the title last year for the ultimate recent trump card, but it's a new season and Kentucky made an early statement in Chicago.
There will be no better guard combo in college hoops than Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray this season. Ulis is unflappable. He knows his game and knows your game as well, making life miserable as a defender and facilitating and scoring at the other end. Basically, an ideal college point guard. Murray for a night looked to be the best pro prospect on a floor full of eventual NBA players. He's that maddening type that appears to be moving in slow motion as he Ginsu-s your defense. They were better than anything Duke could offer - the result being a pretty comprehensive 74-63 win.
I cover Duke of course - so they are more my concern. Things were out of kilter from the get go, both a tribute to UK's defense and a rotation and offensive game plan that's clearly a work in progress for the Blue Devils.
Positives: The upperclassmen were really the only guys who looked at home on the big stage. Marshall Plumlee was a man possessed in the first half and Amile Jefferson figures to be a rock inside. A combined 28 points and 25 rebounds from those guys will usually be a winning number. Throw in 16 from Matt Jones and this team clearly has a dependable spine. What they need to develop are top tier difference makers.
Brandon Ingram obviously has a ridiculous combination of skills and size, but he never looked confident, and never found any rhythm through all the foul trouble. It'll be real interesting to watch how K utilizes him in the offense as both a triggerman and primary scorer.
I was fairly impressed with Derryck Thornton. He made some mistakes, but showed a comfort level making shots and making decisions. It's easy to compare him unfavorably with Tyus Jones, but let's remember that Tyus struggled mightily in stretches last season. Thornton, in my opinion, will show he has the stuff to be the guy there. It would also make for some interesting lineup shuffling.
Grayson Allen - what to say. He was mashed. All those slashing buckets vs Siena and Bryant were totally shut down by the Kentucky interior. Terrible game that he'll shake off, but it's also clear that he'll need to recognize and apply some variation to his game. The rim won't always be there unimpeded.
The rest of the guys were non-factors. Luke Kennard figures to become more of a consistent perimeter threat. Chase Jeter will be an energy guy and not much more. Sean Obi's a total mystery. I'm quite sure he didn't transfer from Rice to ride pine at Duke, but that's his role so far. Last year's rallying cry was 'Eight Is Enough'. They are a skinnier bunch this year, both physically and talent wise.
All that said, it was one game against a very good opponent. There aren't many teams that'll look good vs Kentucky this year, so Duke will have plenty of company.
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