No. 5 Kansas, No. 7 Duke clash looking to get past shortcomings
It’s only the middle of November, and neither No. 5 Kansas nor No. 7 Duke will be whole when they meet Tuesday night in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, but both teams will start getting answers as to who they are this season.
For the Jayhawks (2-0), who have opened their national championship defense with easy wins over Omaha and North Dakota State, they’ll be without head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend.
Both are serving the third game of a four-game suspension imposed by the school for their involvement in a recruiting scandal that saw the program use a shoe company to gain an unfair advantage in signing top players.
As for the Blue Devils (2-0), they enter off even easier wins against Jacksonville and USC Upstate, but played those games without five-star freshman wing Dariq Whitehead (foot) and played the Jacksonville game without center Dereck Lively (calf).
Duke did get 14 minutes out of Lively in Friday night’s 84-38 blowout of USC Upstate. Lively supplied four points, two rebounds and two blocked shots, but things could be tougher on Tuesday with the stiff increase in competition.
Still, it will be the first truly big game for first-year Blue Devils coach Jon Scheyer against a worthy foe on a neutral floor. He wants to see his team continue an early trend.
“We’re learning how to play physical without fouling,” he said. “I think we have the makings of being a good defensive team. … The effort is out there and that is where it starts on defense.”
Freshman Mark Mitchell is averaging a team-high 15.5 points through two games, while another freshman, center Kyle Filipowski, has recorded double-doubles in each of his first two games. Filipowski, Lively and Northwestern transfer Ryan Young (11.5 ppg, 7.5 rebounds per game) give Duke one of the nation’s top frontcourts.
In the backcourt, Jeremy Roach has the offense in his hands. Roach is averaging 13 points and 6.0 assists so far with an assist-turnover ratio slightly better than 2-1.
Meanwhile, Kansas’ last game was an 82-59 rout of North Dakota State Thursday night in which it established a 29-point halftime lead. It got 21 points from Jalen Wilson, including 17 in the first half, and a 12-point, six-rebound outing from freshman guard Gradey Dick.
Interim coach Norm Roberts, a former head coach at St. John’s, said the Jayhawks accomplished Self’s pregame objectives of working on their trapping defenses. Roberts noted that the team notched a lot of deflections in rolling to a 48-19 advantage after 20 minutes of action.
“I thought the guys were terrific in the first half,” Roberts said. “We never let them get comfortable in the first half and I think that really helped us. We’re still a long way from where we’re going to be. We’re gaining on it. We’re getting better.”
Wilson is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds so far, while Dick is chipping in 17.5 points per game and hitting 58.3 percent of his shots.
The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 8-5, taking a 68-66 victory on Nov. 5, 2019, in the teams’ last matchup.
–Field Level Media