Chicago will be the center of the college basketball world on Tuesday when four of the top five ranked squads in the country will take the court at the United Center in the State Farm Champions Classic.
Kentucky (No. 1), Michigan State (No. 2), Duke (No. 4) and Kansas (No. 5) are the teams headlining this star-studded event which not only features three players who could go 1-2-3 in the 2014 NBA Draft, but also a number of players coaches with ties to Chicago.
In the first game at 7 pm, Branden Dawson – who attended Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Ind. – and sharpshooting guard Gary Harris, will lead the Michigan State Spartans against the Kentucky Wildcats, who boast what many consider to be the greatest recruiting class in the history of college basketball.
Kentucky features Julius Randle, the No. 3 overall player in the class of 2013, and the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron. Also suiting up for the Spartans will be freshmen Alvin Ellis III, who played his high school ball at De La Salle, and Gavin Schilling who also attended De La Salle after transferring from Loyola Academy in Wilmette.
In the 9pm nightcap, the Duke Blue Devils – led by Simeon Career Academy’s Jabari Parker, the No. 2 overall prep player in the 2013 class – will take on the Kansas Jayhawks and Andrew Wiggins, who many consider to be the top prospect in next June’s draft.
The Jayhawks also feature Jamari Traylor who played at both Fenger and Julian High School before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Also, in addition to Parker, Duke also has Todd Zafirovski on the roster, a senior forward from Lake Forest.
As for the coaches, Duke’s Mike Krzyewski is a Chicago native and Kansas head coach Bill Self assembled the University of Illinois squad that went on to play in the 2005 National Championship game after he’d already left to coach the Jayhawks.
These four teams could represent a preview of next year’s Final Four and if you’re a college basketball fan in Chicago, it doesn’t get much better than this.