If the Opening Night performances of No. 4-ranked Duke and No. 5 Kansas University mean anything — and that, of course, is debatable — the Blue Devils would have to be given the early nod entering Tuesday’s Champions Classic basketball contest in Chicago.
“They hung 111 on Davidson (in 111-77 win). That’s a 34-point beatdown against a team that had a lot of players coming back from when they beat us in Sprint Center a couple years ago,” KU coach Bill Self said Friday after his Jayhawks’ 80-63 victory over Louisiana at Monroe.
A disciplined Davidson team stunned the Jayhawks, 80-74, on Dec. 19, 2011, in Kansas City, Mo.
“They pressure. They are going to get after us,” Self added of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils. “If we allow their pressure to offset our size, then they win. We’ve got to be able to neutralize their pressure so we can take advantage of size. Then we would win that particular battle.”
Duke freshman sensation Jabari Parker, 6-foot-8, 235 pounds from Chicago, who was ranked No. 4 in the recruiting class of 2013 by Rivals.com, scored 22 points off 8-of-10 shooting in his collegiate debut Friday. He hit three three-pointers in three tries. No. 1-ranked Andrew Wiggins opened his college career with 16 points off 5-of-9 shooting vs. ULM.
Duke sophomore Rodney Hood, a 6-8, 215 transfer from Mississippi State, decked Davidson with 22 points off 9-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds and two three-pointers in two tries. Duke junior point guard Quinn Cook, 6-2 from Washington, D.C., had 21 points and eight assists. KU starting point Naadir Tharpe, meanwhile, missed the Jayhawks’ opener while serving a one-game NCAA suspension.
Meanwhile, Duke starters Amile Jefferson (6-9 sophomore) and Tyler Thornton (6-2 senior) had 10 and six points respectively and reserve Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4 sophomore) 20 points off 6-of-9 shooting, 3-for-4 from three. Overall, Duke swished 13 of 21 treys. KU made seven of 18 threes versus Louisiana at Monroe.
“Our defense is just horrendous from what it needs to be, so we’ll have to do some things differently,” Self said. “We’ll have to handle the ball a lot better (after committing 15 turnovers to ULM’s 13).
“When we play Duke,” Self added, “our guys will know all their guys, and their guys will know our guys. It’s kind of easy on the scout: (You say), ‘Sulaimon is going to do this. Parker is going to do this. Cook is going to do this.’ When playing guys you are not familiar with and you’ve got young kids, No. 33 (ULM’s Drew Kite) comes in the game, and he bangs a three on Andrew White when he falls asleep.
“We put Wayne (Selden) into the game to guard him, and Wayne forgets he just banged a three on Andrew White, and he shoots a set shot and makes it. Those are things from a learning curve we have to pick up that stuff quicker. It’s going to be interesting for a while until we get the hang of exactly what we need to be doing and what our focus should be.
“Perry (Ellis) is young. Jamari (Traylor) is young. How do you have three offensive fouls called on you in five minutes?” he asked, referring to what did happen to Traylor. “It’s an entire team of young-uns that is going to be frustrating from time to time, but very rewarding I hope in the end.”
How KU plays against Duke remains to be seen.
“It will be good for our guys to play in the game,” Self said. “I think we have a pretty good feel who we are now. We’ll have a better feel, just like they will after Tuesday.”
KU will meet Duke approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday, after a 6:30 contest between Michigan State and Kentucky.
KU recruits attending games: Cliff Alexander, a 6-8 forward from Chicago’s Curie High who is ranked No. 4 in the class of 2014, has said he will attend KU’s women’s game against Oral Roberts, set for a 2 p.m. tip today in Allen Fieldhouse. He is considering KU, Memphis, DePaul and Illinois. Alexander’s girlfriend, Caelynn Manning-Allen, is a KU freshman forward from Chicago Curie High. ... Meanwhile, Jahlil Okafor, who is ranked No. 1 in the class, says he will attend Tuesday’s KU-Duke game in Chicago. He’s 6-10 from Chicago’s Whitney Young High and is expected to choose between KU and Duke. The weeklong early signing period begins Wednesday.