Kansas plays Duke on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic in what is marquee matchup between two big name programs. Amazingly though it might be a matchup between two individual players that draws more eyes and analysis at the end of this one.
The NBA likes to build it’s brand around the superstar player. College basketball on the other hand, has always been more about the program, or perhaps the coach. That is something that has maybe shifted a bit in recent years with the advent of the one and done rule and the marketing machine and NBA feeder factory that initially developed at Kentucky. Now we’re seeing other schools follow suit a bit with the super hyped player centric explosion. Two of those teams and two of those players will square off tomorrow night and Kansas fans obviously have a vested interest.
Tuesday night Kansas plays Duke in a matchup between top five schools in the Champions Classic. It’s a series of games built around great programs. This matchup in particular though, is being billed as a matchup between two great players. Andrew Wiggins was the no. 1 recruit in the nation entering the season, Jabari Parker was no. 2. The two will go head to head in Chicago and with both players just one game into their respective college careers the comparisons have started and aren’t likely to stop.
Wiggins is in the unenviable position of being on top. He’s a mild mannered individual and his first college game should be considered a success as the freakishly athletic wing led Kansas in scoring with 16 points on the way to a comfortable win. On the flipside Parker scored 22 and had a few highlight reel plays that have some asking the question as to whether or not Parker can surpass Wiggins as the no. 1 pick. Unfortunately for Wiggins, being on top means you’re the one with the target on your back and both Parker, along with Kentucky’s Julius Randle, are eying the top spot and Parker is eying his opportunity to make some noise in his hometown of Chicago.
When Kansas plays Duke on Tuesday night it will be one of the few times that two individual players and one matchup between those two players will quite possibly overshadow a the game between these two historic programs. When the dust settles there will be just as much, if not more discussion related to the individual matchup between these two players as there will be related to the game and what it means for these two programs. Is Wiggins aggressive enough? Can Parker overtake Wiggins? Who’s more polished? Who has more potential? Which player did more for his draft stock? It’s an odd situation for Kansas and Duke fans because they take such pride in their overall programs and focusing on one individual isn’t really the norm. But it is the reality of Tuesday in a game where expectations placed on superstar freshman and the hype surrounding them will be on full display.