The 2K Empire Classic kicks off on Thursday with first-round matchups between Texas vs. Georgetown and Duke vs. Cal. All four teams provide strong matchups against each other and give these teams a tough test early in the season. Shaka Smart vs. Patrick Ewing will be a must watch coaching matchup, as Duke could struggle defending Cal’s 3-point shooting.
Dates: November 21 & 22, 2019
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
First-round Matchups: Texas vs. Georgetown & Duke vs. Cal
The Blue Devils come in as the clear favorite for the Empire Classic. Tre Jones has had a strong start to the season with 17 points and 5.8 assists per game. Freshman Vernon Carey Jr. has also shown off how dominant he can be in the post. What has helped Duke has been their defense. They’re rated 2nd in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom, and rank 17th in forcing turnovers.
Shaka Smart has the Longhorns off to a 4-0 start with a win at Purdue this season. Texas has been another team that has relied on their defense early. They rank 14th in defensive efficiency, and forcing turnovers 24.5 percent of the time. Also, they’re offensive production has come from their guards Andrew Jones and Matt Coleman. Coleman has shot 58 percent beyond the arc this season, which should help when facing Georgetown.
Patrick Ewing is trying to rebuild Georgetown into the college basketball powerhouse they used to be. Look for the Hoyas to utilize their seven-foot center Omer Yurtseven. Texas does not have the size to matchup against Yurtseven, so this could be a huge benefit for Georgetown. They have turned the ball over quite a bit this season, which won’t help going up against a Shaka Smart team.
Cal drew the short stick having to go up against Duke in the first round. The Bears have turned the ball over quite a bit on offense, which falls right into a Duke strength. However, Cal does rank 18th in the country in effective field goal percentage, according to Kenpom, and fifth in three-point percentage. If Cal can limit turnovers, they can shoot themselves into a battle against the Blue Devils.
Unless Duke is caught sleepwalking, they should be able to take care of Cal. However, the matchup between Texas and Georgetown is more intriguing. Both teams are turnover prone as Texas ranks 252nd in turnover percentage, and Georgetown ranks 234th, according to Kenpom. This game could get sloppy if teams can’t take care of the ball, and both might not care as defense is the strength in this matchup. The Hoyas have a slight height advantage over the Longhorns as well. Texas has struggled beyond the arc this season, and if they can’t hit their three’s against a bad Georgetown perimeter defense, then they’ll have to go inside and hit shots over the seven-footer Yurtseven. This game should be fairly close, but Texas will most likely edge Georgetown.
Potential Finals Matchup
The finals will most likely feature Duke and Texas on Friday. The Blue Devils can force turnovers, which does hurt the Longhorns offense. Duke is a great team all-around except for their three-point shooting, as they rank 211th in three-point percentage. The goal for Texas would be to hit their three’s, something they aren’t great at doing, and trying to limit Vernon Carey in the paint. Texas would have to rely on their defense to pull off the upset, but Duke should prevail in the end.