NEW YORK -- Mike Krzyzewski's farewell Tour began Tuesday. Tuesday also marked the beginning of Paolo Banchero’s campaign to become the No. The June NBA draft featured the No. 1 pick.
However, the No. 9 Duke's win over No. Ten Kentucky: Trevor Keels, a freshman guard, was the main story at Madison Square Garden. He scored 25 points to lead the Blue Devils' season-opening victory.
Keels, a 6-foot-4 combo guard who is physically strong, dominated the first half of the second period. Banchero was in the locker area with cramps and then helped the Blue Devils win the game in the last few minutes.
Keels stated, "I knew that when P went out, somebody needed to step in, and that's exactly what I did." "I just kept looking at the score, and I made sure that we were up and winning. This is something I always look at. My points are not important to me. It's not about whether we win or lose.
Krzyzewski was the focus of much of the lead-up to Tuesday's Champions Classic doubleheader. Krzyzewski was honored at the Kansas-Michigan State opener. A conversation with Bill Self, Tom Izzo, and John Calipari about their favorite Krzyzewski moments played on the MSG Video Board at halftime.
Banchero was the winner once the game had tipped. The No. 3 recruit, Banchero is projected by ESPN to be the next player in the NBA draft. Banchero is the No. 2 pick in 2022 NBA draft and has an offensive repertoire rarely seen in college basketball. He stands 6'10 and 250 pounds. However, he can handle the ball, make face-up jumpers at the top of the key, and score around the basket. He is also a good absorber of contact and can get to the free throw line regularly.
He finished the game with 22 points and seven assists, while missing some time. He also shot 7-11 from the field.
Krzyzewski stated, "He's an exceptional player and you can coach his hard." He'll keep improving. He is the real deal. There's no question about it."
The only weakness in Banchero’s game Tuesday night was his cramps, which flared up in the second period. He had to go into the locker room for an IV. Krzyzewski said that Banchero was among four Duke players who had cramps. Wendell Moore Jr. and star freshman Wendell Moore Jr. also needed IVs.
Three minutes into the second period, Banchero was replaced by a substitute and Kentucky was leading one. Duke was not its best player, but the Wildcats were gaining momentum.
Duke was leading by 15.8 minutes.
Keels took control, which he calls "Keel Mode". He scored 12 points in a 24-8 run that gave Duke control of the game. Keels scored a driving layup and hit another shot 90 seconds later, extending Duke's lead at 11 points.
He ended up with 25 points after shooting 10-for-18. He also had two assists and three steals.
Krzyzewski stated, "This kid right there is going to be great player." He's not a great player. Trevor is a great player. He is 230 pounds and would be a great running back. He is often fouled. Because he is so low and has excellent body control, he doesn't charge much. He was the D.C.'s best player for three consecutive years. "
Contrary to the previous freshmen-heavy seasons, Kentucky heavily relied on its veterans against Duke. The Wildcats used five transfers for long periods of the second half. Only one of their seven top players in minutes played was TyTy Washington, a freshman who struggled on the offensive end.
Kentucky was kept competitive by two newcomers, Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia), and Oscar Tshiebwe(West Virginia). Wheeler showed great energy in the first half. He was able to get into the paint quickly and find teammates for open shots. Tshiebwe was an offensive force on both ends of the court, scoring 17 points and grabbing 19 rebounds, 12 of which were offensive, as well as two blocks.
To stay in the top 10, the Wildcats will have to continue to play well with their other stars.
Calipari spoke of Banchero's and Keels, saying, "I said, their top-five player played like top five players." "Now, if you want them to be your best, then get up there."
The Blue Devils might have reached their ceiling on Tuesday night with the help of Duke's marquee players. There were many questions about the team's potential after last season's 13-11 disappointing campaign. Two big issues were inexperience and a lack of depth, particularly on the perimeter.
The team did not look great against Kentucky, as the Blue Devils shot 1-for-13 at 3-point range. However, Banchero and Keels gave Krzyzewski some hope for his last hurrah.
Even if Krzyzewski isn't ready to admit it yet.
He said, "I've reminded [them] they're 1-0." It's a long season.