Duke tips off in its season-opener against Kentucky at 9:30 p.m. in Madison Square Garden in what will likely be head coach Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari's last head-to-head battle. We've got our beats here to give you their picks for who will come out on top.
Jake Piazza: Duke 74-68
I penciled this one in as a win for Duke during our season preview, and my mind hasn't changed. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has an uber-talented roster headlined by freshman phenom Paolo Banchero, and we got to see just how dominant this team can be during the exhibition. I expect Kentucky to keep this one close thanks to the perimeter shooting of Tyty Washington, Keion Brooks Jr., and company, but Trevor Keels' offensive bag and Mark Williams' post play are going to allow Duke to keep pace. Ultimately, I think the tenacious Duke defense that we saw during the exhibition game will come up with some big stops late, and the Blue Devils will skate out of Madison Square Garden in style.
Max Rego: Duke 81-75
Get ready for a show. Duke comes in as a slim favorite over this reloaded Kentucky group, with the backcourt duo of Sahvir Wheeler and Washington looking to disrupt things on both ends. One key for the Blue Devils will be transition points, as Calipari’s bunch struggled to defend Miles College on the break last week. At the end of the day, I think Roach and Keels play their Kentucky counterparts to a virtual stalemate, while Banchero and Williams feast inside. Coach K says goodbye to Madison Square Garden after a close, but highly encouraging, win.
Alex Jackson: Duke 84-72
Ah yes, the return of basketball. A long awaited moment tipping off in the big apple between two powerhouse schools. In this season opener, I have to pick Duke to win and by a sizeable margin. Simply put, the Blue Devils will win the matchup battle. Kentucky enters the game without anyone over 6-foot-9 on the roster. When you’re facing off against the likes of Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero and Theo John, size matters. And the Wildcats not being able to work the inside, as they have been able to so often in the past, is going to really hurt their chances to start the season 1-0. As both teams begin to figure out their rosters, I just feel Duke comes into this game with the most raw power and can work around the initial chemistry issues better than Kentucky will be able to.
Sasha Richie: Duke 78-68
Kentucky is undoubtedly a talented team, and its rotation of elite transfers along with Washington and Brooks should eventually click into one of the top teams in the league. However, through their two exhibition games against Division II schools, Kentucky did not look like it had got it quite figured out, with the defense especially looking rough around the edges. Meanwhile, Duke was firing on all cylinders in its exhibition game against Winston-Salem State. It’s hard to draw any real conclusions from such disparate competition, but the Blue Devils just seemed to work in almost every aspect of the game. Both teams have the capability to sink a lot of baskets, but Duke will likely be able to out-defend Kentucky, giving the Blue Devils an edge that I don’t think will be particularly close.
Micah Hurewitz: Duke 85-74
The high-powered offenses headed by top recruits Paolo Banchero and Tyty Washington are sure to play a fast-paced, flashy style of play, but ultimately Duke will come up with the advantage in two areas: interior play and defense. Sure, the Blue Devils are a young team, but with a sophomore Mark Williams, Banchero and Theo John holding down the fort inside, it will be tough for Kentucky’s guards to penetrate. The Blue Devil defense on the perimeter—led by Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore Jr. will be the deciding factor in Tuesday’s Big Apple shootout.
Jonathan Levitan: Duke 80-74
A matchup between these two storied programs—both of whom disappointed in last year’s tumultuous season—feels like a fitting start to the 2021-22 campaign. While the Blue Devils and Wildcats both have the usual young talent at their disposal, experience on both sides brings an added twist to what should already be a competitive contest. But the pieces of the puzzle seem like a perfect fit for Duke, while I’m not entirely sold on Kentucky’s roster composition just yet. That will be the difference in this one, as Duke’s blue shines brighter in a well-rounded and encouraging team win.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.