The storyline for Tuesday's game between Kentucky and Kansas writes itself. The two teams with the most wins in college basketball history meet again, this time in the State Farm Champions Classic in Chicago.
Despite that obvious narrative, Kentucky head coach John Calipari knows that this game is not about the storied histories of these two proud programs. It's about the players on the floor for the 2023-24 college basketball season.
“They're a veteran team, older players and we've got young guys,” Calipari said on Monday. “We have no idea how they will respond. I'm hoping they respond. Sometimes, they're so young, they don't know and they just go play well. I don't know what to expect.”
What's the message that Calipari and his staff are giving to these young Cats?
“Go play loose and free and have fun and let's see who we are right now,” Calipari said. “This is our third game. This is literally a brand new team. We've shown signs of really good and we've shown signs of ‘oh my gosh, we have to be better than this', which is typical.”
Kentucky is off to a 2-0 start after beating New Mexico State 86-46 and Texas A&M-Commerce 81-61 last week. Antonio Reeves currently leads the Cats in scoring, averaging 16 points per game.
Reeves is certainly not bearing all of the scoring load. Freshman Rob Dillingham is posting 14.5 points per outing, while classmate Justin Edwards has averaged 14.0 points through two games. Tre Mitchell (13.5 ppg) and D.J. Wagner (12.0 ppg) round out the five Cats currently averaging double digits in points.
Like Kentucky, Kansas has gotten its season off to a good start, winning both of its early games with ease. The Jayhawks topped North Carolina Central 99-56 in their first game, then beat Manhattan 99-61.
Kansas has been led by center Hunter Dickinson. The Michigan transfer leads Kansas with a 19.0 points per game average through two contests. Kevin McCullar Jr. is close behind at 18.5 points per game, while KJ Adams has averaged 13 points through two games.
“Kansas is the number one team in the country and should be,” Calipari said. “They're not going to beat themselves, they play hard, they're very aggressive, they'll play fast when they can.”
Walter Cornett, of Glendale, Kentucky, is the owner and operator of Walter's Wildcat World. He founded WildcatWorld.com in 1998 making it one of the oldest Kentucky basketball fan sites in operation today.