College basketball started on Friday, but aside from an upset buzzer-beater and the block of the year, the season really begins on Tuesday in Indianapolis. Kentucky faces off against Kansas in the Champions Classic in the first top-five matchup of the season.
Kentucky is the preseason pick to win the national title, and for good reason. John Calipari's team is loaded as usual, and this time it's not just freshman. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are back, fresh off an inspired tournament run that ended in a loss in the national championship game. But it's Kentucky's size that gives teams fits: centers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson stayed in school while UK's freshman class is stacked as always with big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles. That's not even mentioning sophomore forward Marcus Lee. Expectations are sky high as usual in Lexington.
Kansas lost Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but like Kentucky, its freshman class is also loaded. Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are expected to fill the holes left by two of the top three picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Oubre is a lights out shooter and Alexander will be asked to anchor the Jayhawks' defensive unit. The freshman won't be expected to do it all, though. Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr. are back and will play a big role for Kansas. Coach Bill Self and Kansas are looking for their 11th straight Big 12 title, but this Kentucky game will show whether this Kansas team should be in the national title conversation as well.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Online Streaming: Watch ESPN.
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Rankings and Records: Kentucky is ranked No. 1 in both bolls. Kansas is No. 5 in both. Kentucky is 2-0 and Duke is 1-0. Kentucky won their season opener over Grand Canyon, 85-45, and then dispatched a pesky Buffalo team that led UK by 5 at the half, 71-52. Kansas beat UC Santa Barbara 69-59. This will be the 28th matchup between the two schools, and Kentucky has a 21-6 edge in the series, including a victory the last time they met: the 2012 national championship game.
Odds: Kentucky is favored by 6.5, per OddsShark.
Two things at stake
The expectations at both schools are gargantuan as usual. There are no 40-0 shirts for Kentucky this year, but it's still national title or bust. And things aren't that much different at Kansas, where Bill Self has turned his team into perennial contenders.
The No. 1 ranking may be up for grabs as well. If Kansas can go in and beat Kentucky convincingly, they'll make a strong case as the best team in the country.
One big matchup
The front line of Kentucky vs. Cliff Alexander. Kansas' freshman big man is being thrown to the wolves in just his second collegiate game. No matter when Alexander is on the court, he's going to be facing a relentless barrage of talent in some combination of Cauley-Stein, Johnson, Towns, Lyles and Lee. That's five bigs from Kentucky that all have the ability to take over a game. It's a real test, but Alexander holding his own will play a big role in Kansas winning this basketball game.