By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — John Calipari doesn’t know what to expect from his team when Kentucky opens the season Tuesday night against Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic.
“This is so early in the season, I can’t predict what goes on,” he said Sunday. “They have a have a couple of veterans, but really their veteran quarterback (Cassius Winston) makes them go. … you’re at the mercy of that guy a little bit. I’m anxious to see where we are right now. … I expect our guys to be anxious. I don’t what will happen with the young kids. You can’t predict it.”
It’s a preseason blockbuster event filled with plenty of hype for all four teams. For just the second time in history, the top two teams will open the season in a gathering of the four top ranked teams in the country. No. 3 Kansas and fourth-ranked Duke will tangle in the opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday, followed by top-ranked Michigan State and No. 2 Kentucky. No. 1 Indiana defeated No. 2 UCLA 84-64 in the season opener for both teams in 1975.
“I wish we didn’t play this game the first game of the year,” Calipari said. “Why don’t we have a couple of games under our belt to do this, but everybody agreed to do it.”
Kentucky owns a 4-4 mark in the prestigious event and lost a season-opener for the first time in Calipari’s tenure as coach last year — an humbling 118-84 loss to Duke in Indianapolis. Kentucky’s returning players are seeking a better outcome this time around.
“You can’t let something like that happen again,” Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley said. “We came out, thought we were better than what we were and got smacked, but at the end of the day, we ended up being one of the final eight teams that had a chance to go to the Final Four and win a national championship.”
Looking back in the contest, Calipari said the Blue Devils “deserved to win by 50 the way they played.”
“Their guys played better than my guys,” Calipari said. “But at the end of the year if you (would have thought) we would have had three guys going into the draft and going into the league and doing what they’re doing (after) you watched that game, you would have said (that) would have never happened.”