INDIANAPOLIS — The Champions Classic is a great opportunity for NBA scouts to get eyes on a handful of NBA draft prospects early on in the season, and the two games Tuesday evening did not disappoint. The same four teams — Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State — play each year with the four teams rotating opponents every season.
The first game ended in double overtime with Michigan State edging out No. 4 Kentucky, 86-77. Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe fouled out early in the first overtime, and the Wildcats couldn’t find rhythm offensively. Michigan State’s Mady Sissoko caught multiple lobs to close out the game without Tshiebwe’s presence in the lane defensively.
The second game between No. 6 Duke and No. 7 Kansas didn’t tip off until after 10:30 p.m. ET, and it was a messy first half with numerous offensive fouls called on both teams. Kansas guards Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris Jr. were a steady backcourt for the Jayhawks and freshman wing Gradey Dick took over in the final two minutes leading the Jayhawks to victory, 69-64.
Several NBA scouts and executives were taking in the action at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and although it’s very early in the college basketball season, there was a lot of talent on the floor.
Yahoo Sports breaks down the top NBA draft prospects from each team and how they played in the Champions Classic.
Jalen Wilson | Kansas | Junior
Wilson was one of the best offensive players on the court Tuesday and showcased many different ways to score, posting 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. It was a tough shooting night from behind the arc for both teams with Wilson unable to connect on any of his six attempts from 3-point range. What he did show NBA scouts was his improved handle and decision-making when he’s in the lane. Wilson made good reads all night, whether that was pulling up for a floater, turning the corner off screens and finding an open man or cutting off the ball for good looks. He’s stronger with the ball and more confident in his decision-making and will definitely be a player to watch this season.
Cason Wallace | Kentucky | Freshman
Wallace was one of best prospect on the court in both games, and it was what he was doing defensively that was most impressive. In the first 30 seconds of the game, Wallace had a steal in the backcourt and converted for an easy dunk. During a crucial moment in the second half, he prevented point guard A.J. Hoggard from turning the corner and then read his lob to Malik Hall, blocking Hall’s shot. He’s everywhere on the court and impacts the game in so many different ways. Offensively, he plays with patience and will wait for the defense to collapse to make the extra pass instead of forcing a shot around the rim.
“I couldn’t take him out of the game because of what he was bringing to the team defensively,” head coach John Calipari said after the game. “When you look at what he did and the difference and the impact he had on the game, it was enormous.”
Gradey Dick | Kansas | Freshman
It was a two-point game with a little over two minutes remaining when Dick decided to take things over for the Jayhawks. In three consecutive possessions, Dick scored seven points and kept the win out of reach for Duke. The 6-foot-8 wing moves so well off the ball and has a natural ease to his game. At times defensively, he had trouble keeping players in front and relied too much on the help-side defense. Dick doesn’t back away from the big moments when the game is on the line and wants the ball in his hands in close games or when the shot clock is winding down. Dick finished with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Oscar Tshiebwe | Kentucky | Senior
Tshiebwe played for the first time this season, when he entered six minutes into the game with thunderous roars from Kentucky fans in the arena. The 6-9 forward has been sidelined after getting his knee scoped four weeks ago and didn’t show a single hint of a lingering injury, grabbing 18 rebounds and adding 22 points. Tshiebwe elected to return for his senior year even after getting NBA draft buzz last season. He is the best rebounder in college basketball and created multiple second opportunities for Kentucky with six offensive boards.
Kyle Filipowski | Duke | Freshman
Filipowski gave Duke a second gear after a mediocre first-half performance. He was making three-point plays at the rim, grabbed six offensive boards and was stepping into his 3-point shot with confidence off the pick-and-pop. He went only 1-for-6 from deep Tuesday, but the 7-footer has a great shooting stroke with a high release he can get off over any defense. Filipowski is a little bit of a defensive liability when he matches up with small guards on the wing and got caught on backdoor cuts and players getting the first step on him and driving baseline. Filipowski finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds in the loss.
Malik Hall | Michigan State | Senior
Hall had the game-tying dunk to send things into overtime with four seconds in regulation after slipping a screen during an out-of-bounds play and then had another dunk to send it into double OT off a pass from Tyson Walker. The 6-8 forward worked on his body over the summer and has improved footwork off the dribble. He does a lot of little things well, but doesn’t excel in any particular area of his game. He’ll be the glue guy for Michigan State this season, and there’s definitely value in four-year players at the NBA level. Hall brings experience and confidence to his game and doesn’t need a ton of development.
Dereck Lively II | Duke | Freshman
Lively II is still coming back from a lower leg injury that left him sidelined for a few weeks. The 7-1 center struggled at times defensively while having to step out and guard the perimeter, but he disrupted plenty of shots in the lane with his elite shot-blocking mechanics and timing coming off the weakside block when guards get downhill. Lively II had a quiet night, logging 20 minutes and finishing with five rebounds, four points and one block.
Chris Livingston | Kentucky | Freshman
Livingston played only 12 minutes and was relatively quiet with Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin getting most of the minutes in the close game. Livingston is a solid athlete who was one of the most explosive forwards in high school basketball last year, especially coming off the wing. He’ll need more time to settle into the pace of the college game and will have to be patient with his development this season at Kentucky.