The ninth-ranked Duke men’s basketball team opens the program’s 117th season with a marquee showdown versus 10th-ranked Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday in New York City.
A match-up between two of the four winningest programs in NCAA history, Duke has won eight of the last 10 meetings with Kentucky and is 6-2 versus the Wildcats under Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils’ 6-4 record in the 10-year history of the Champions Classic is the best of the four Blue Bloods, followed by Kentucky and Kansas (each 5-5) and Michigan State (4-6).
Madison Square Garden has long been a home away from home for the Blue Devils as Duke’s all-time record at the current version of MSG stands at 38-18, including 33-11 under Coach K. Tuesday’s game marks Duke’s 100th all-time when playing in the greater NYC area (72-27, .727). That includes 44-25 in NYC, 7-1 in Brooklyn and 21-1 in East Rutherford, N.J.
- Duke was picked as the preseason favorite in the ACC, with freshman Paolo Banchero tapped the ACC’s Preseason Player and Freshman of the Year. Banchero (first team), Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams (second team), were each named Preseason All-ACC.
- With the release of the Associated Press preseason poll on Oct. 18, Duke was ranked No. 9 -extending a notable streak. The Blue Devils have now been ranked in the top 10 at least once in 26 consecutive seasons — the longest active streak nationally. The No. 9 ranking also marked the 14th consecutive season that the Blue Devils made their debut in the top 10.
- The 2021-22 campaign marks the 42nd season at Duke for Hall of Fame Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, where he has won 1,097 games and five national championships. Entering his 47th season overall, Coach K is the winningest coach in D-I history with 1,170 victories.
- Tuesday marks Coach K’s 1,400th game as Duke’s head coach. Duke, which finished last season 13-11 overall and 9-9 in the ACC, played each of its home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium and a majority of its road games with no fans due to the pandemic.
- Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden marks Duke’s 57th game at current MSG, and the Blue Devils are 38-18 in the venue (33-11 under Mike Krzyzewski).
Duke has won four straight and five of its last six at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
- Duke is 44-25 in all versions of MSG, dating back to a February 4, 1938, game versus St. John’s. Duke has played at least once at MSG in eight of the last nine seasons, in 18 of the last 20, and 21 of the last 24. Duke is 72-27 in 99 games all-time in the greater NYC area, including contests in Brooklyn (7-1) and East Rutherford, N.J. (21-1). Current MSG has seen the sixth-most Duke wins (38) of any venue in the country, behind only Cameron Indoor Stadium, Greensboro Coliseum, Reynolds Coliseum, and former Duke home venues Card Gym and Duke Gym.
- Senior Joey Baker and junior Wendell Moore Jr., will serve as the team’s captains for the 2021-22 season. Baker and Moore were elected to lead the Blue Devils via a player vote and both will serve as captains for the first time in their respective careers. The pair are two of Duke’s six returnees from last season’s team.
- Duke was ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s 2021-22 rankings, boasting a class with Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels and Jaylen Blakes. Banchero, Griffin and Keels were McDonald’s All-Americans and were each set to compete in the 2021 Jordan Brand Classic. Banchero was the No. 3 ranked overall player in the class by ESPN. Blakes helped lead Blair Academy to the NJISAA Prep “A” State Championship in 2018-19 alongside junior Keenan Worthington. Griffin won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, averaging 13.5 points and a team-high 3.3 steals per game in six contests. Keels averaged 28.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 3.8 steals as a senior at St. Paul VI in Virginia. He was high school teammates with sophomore Jeremy Roach.
- Coach K added a pair of grad transfers this offseason with forward Theo John from Marquette and forward Bates Jones from Davidson. The 6-9, 242-pound John, who played for Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette and for Chris Carrawell while he was an assistant
coach, racked up 191 blocks in his career – the second most in program history. Jones, who checks in at 6-8, 222, came to Duke after four years for the legendary Bob McKillop at Davidson. He is the brother of both former Duke and current NY Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and current Duke women’s soccer goalkeeper Ruthie Jones
- Freshman Mark Williams led all scorers with a career-high 23 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in the 70-56 win over Louisville in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Williams scored 100 points over his final six games of the season, averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and shooting 44-of-59 (.746) over that stretch, which included both of his double-doubles – 18 and 11 vs. Syracuse and 23 and 19 vs. Louisville.
- The Blue Devils led 22-2 less than five minutes in and never looked back in a 106-38 exhibition win over Winston-Salem State on Oct. 30 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It marked the team’s lone exhibition game, choosing to play one exhibition and one closed scrimmage (vs. Villanova on Oct. 23 in Washington, D.C.). The Blue Devils had six players in double-figures vs. WSSU, led by the 21 points and nine rebounds from freshman Paolo Banchero, while classmate Trevor Keels added 12 points and four rebounds. Sophomore Mark Williams poured in 14 on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds and five blocked shots. For the game, the Blue Devils had 26 assists against four turnovers on 38 made field goals. The starting backcourt of Keels and sophomore Jeremy Roach, along with forward Wendell Moore Jr.,
combined for 17 assists and one turnover.
- The Wildcats were picked to win the SEC regular-season title. UK has won 49 all-time regular-season SEC crowns and six under John Calipari.
- With an influx of transfers, key returners and an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this UK team returns more NCAA Division I minutes (13,385) than any other team in program history (minutes statistics through the 1964-65 season).
- Kentucky will begin the season ranked in the top 10 for the 12th time in 13 year under Calipari in the AP Top 25.
- The Wildcats feature six transfers on their roster – including four newcomers this season – the most in school history.
- Kentucky has historically performed well under the bright lights of New York. The Wildcats are 38-14 in games in the New York City area, including wins in 10 of the last 12 games.
In the modern-day version of Madison Square Garden, UK is 14-4. The latest appearance in “the Mecca of Basketball” was a thrilling 69-62 victory for Kentucky on Nov. 5, 2019, in a matchup of the nation’s preseason top two teams. The Wildcats knocked off the top-ranked Spartans behind 26 points in Tyrese Maxey’s Kentucky debut. UK is 3-0 in the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats are 0-2 vs. Duke in all-time matchups in New York.
- Now in its 120th season of college basketball, Kentucky is 98-20 all-time in season openers entering 2021-22 (the Wildcats did not have a schedule in 1952-53 due to NCAA suspension). UK has won 11 of 12 in season openers under John Calipari. Kentucky’s lone season-opening loss in the Calipari era was in 2018-19, which snapped a nine-game winning streak that began when Calipari took the job. Prior to that loss, Calipari-coached teams had won 14 straight regular-season openers dating back to his time at Memphis. Included in Kentucky’s 98-20 all-time season-opening record was a 34-game winning streak from the 1927-28 season to the 1961-62 season.
- Kentucky won both of its exhibition games leading up to regular-season play, defeating Kentucky Wesleyan 95-72 on Oct. 29 before holding off Miles College in a too-close-for-comfort 80-71 victory on Friday. Both were NCAA Division II programs. The Wildcats have a knack for taking care of business in exhibition games. UK is 40-12 all-time in exhibition games and has won its last 19 such contests, dating back to Nov. 2, 2014, vs. Pikeville. Kentucky is 36-1 in exhibition games with John Calipari at the helm.
- UK shot 51.5% from the floor over the two games, including 45.8% from 3-point range. The Wildcats averaged 18.0 assists per game. Kentucky scored 87.5 points per game. TyTy Washington Jr., a freshman, led UK in scoring with 16.5 points per game on 59.% shooting, including 6 for 6 from 3-point range. He also averaged 4.0 assists in the two contests. Sahvir Wheeler tallied 12.5 points per game, including a team-best 6.0 assists a contest. Keion Brooks Jr. was 4 for 8 from 3-point range in the two exhibitions en route to 12.0 points per game. Kellan Grady also averaged 12.0 points with four 3-pointers across the two matchups. Oscar Tshiebwe led the team on the boards with 11.0 rebounds per game.
- This Kentucky team isn’t just experienced by the standards of the usually green John Calipari era, it’s historically experienced. This group, stocked with transfers who played major minutes at other schools, key returners and only three freshmen, will start the season with 13,385 total minutes at the NCAA Division I level. That is more than any team in the history of Kentucky basketball entering a season (minutes statistics available through the 1964-65 season).
Duke vs Kentucky
- Two of the four winningest programs in NCAA history, Duke and Kentucky have met 22 times with UK leading 12-10.
- The recent history has favored the Blue Devils, with Duke winning eight of the last 10 meetings.
- In the Champions Classic, the Blue Devils have won two of the three matchups — UK won, 74-63, in 2015 in Chicago; while Duke won, 75-68, in Atlanta in 2012 and 118-84 in Indianapolis in 2018.
- Coach K is 6-2 versus Kentucky.
- Duke has opened a season three previous times versus Kentucky and won all three — 82-76 in overtime on Nov. 17, 1979 (Tipoff Classic in Springfield, Mass.), 80-55 on Nov. 19, 1988 (Tipoff Classic in Springfield, Mass.) and 118-84 on Nov. 6, 2018 (Champions Classic in Indianapolis).
How to Watch
Time: 9:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Holly Rowe)
Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Blue Devils Sports Network (David Shumate, John Roth)