If you love college basketball, Chicago is the place to be this weekend.
The CBS Sports Classic on Saturday at the United Center features four of the most prominent basketball programs in the country. The double-header begins with an intriguing matchup between No. 24 North Carolina and No. 12 Ohio State which tips off at noon CT. That ranked-on-ranked matchup is followed by a monster meeting between No. 1 Kentucky and a young and exciting UCLA squad. ChiCitySports will be there for the coverage, so make sure to follow @ChiCitySports23 on Saturday along with @The_MDubb and @AWonzo.
Here’s a quick look at the players to watch on each team heading into this stellar day of college hoops.
Kennedy Meeks, sophomore forward, North Carolina
I could’ve easily gone with Preseason All-American Marcus Paige here, but Meeks has quietly been UNC’s most productive player this season. The massive 6-foot-9, 280-pound sophomore is leading the Tar Heels in PPG (13.8), RPG (9.1), and BPG (1.6) despite playing just 22.5 minutes per game. His 35.3 player efficiency rating ranks fourth in the nation just behind Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Meeks’ conditioning issues will likely limit his playing time once again on Saturday, but expect him to be productive when he’s on the floor.
D’Angelo Russell, freshman guard, Ohio State
Russell has been a revelation for Ohio State this season. The true freshman is filling up the stat sheet averaging 18 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 3-pointers at a 43.1 percent clip. Russell’s quick emergence has prominently put him on the NBA radar. The freshman is one of four of ESPN’s Chad Ford’s top 11 prospects that will play in the CBS Sports Classic. Expect Russell to improve his stock even more on the big stage.
Bryce Alford, sophomore guard, UCLA
Bryce Alford didn’t just make UCLA’s roster because he’s the coach’s son; the kid can flat out play. Alford is leading the Bruins in PPG (18), APG (6.7), and 3-pointers (27) after having a bench role as a freshman last season. Alford is one of most entertaining players to watch in the country. The swaggy sophomore has yet to see a shot he’s afraid to take. Alford at 6-foot-3 is able to get his shot off anywhere on the court, and his advanced ball-handling skills make staying in front of him a difficult task. Alford might shoot 1-for-10 or 10-for-10, but he certainly won’t be shy with his shot. Kentucky has an intimidating front court, so UCLA might depend on Alford even more than usual.
Willie Cauley-Stein, junior center, Kentucky
WCS might not be Kentucky’s best NBA prospect, but he’s clearly been their best player so far this season. Cauley-Stein could’ve departed for the NBA Draft after his freshman campaign, but the defensive-minded center decided to stick around for two more seasons. His decision has paid off as a he leads Kentucky in PPG (10.7), RPG (6.8), and SPG (1.7) while shooting 62.3 percent from the floor. Cauley-Stein has drawn comparisons to Tyson Chandler thanks to his ability to finish lobs and lockdown on the defensive end. Cauley-Stein was the Wildcats’ best player against No. 6 Texas and No. 21 North Carolina, so expect the big man to step up once again vs. UCLA.
Remember to check CCS for more coverage on the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday.