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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
College basketball needed this night

By Michael Wilbon


CHICAGO -- In its greatest fantasies perhaps the best the Final Four can hope for is to be a passable sequel. The final weekend of college basketball simply isn't getting 1, 2, 4 and 5. And its unlikely stars as big as Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins all will have survived the Madness of March to reconvene at season's end. The only thing wrong with the Champions Classic on Tuesday night in Chicago is that there's only one.

Anytime you can see Duke's Jabari Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle in one night, in two different games, no less, you've been blessed. Look, Randle, at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, is a young wildebeest. He can control college games within 12 feet of the basket. He's going to command a double-team every time he touches the ball by, oh, New Year's Day or so.

But Parker is the best player in basketball; not the best freshman, the best player. All the people who jumped off the Parker bandwagon when his foot was injured last year and his numbers plummeted and his weight (allegedly) soared need to apply for space back aboard the bandwagon. This isn't about the final score, that Kansas won the game, beating Duke 94-83. Not in November. It's about first impressions and wondering whether they'll be lasting impressions. There's nothing Parker doesn't do really, really well. He can play all the frontcourt positions and shoot the 3-ball like a two-guard. He absolutely commands double-teams defensively, and finds teammates with ease. He can play way above the rim, but has the fundamentals of a kid with lesser talent who's affixed to the floor. He scored 19 points in the first half against a Kansas team that's probably Final Four good. Hey, Andrew Wiggins is a highlight machine, and he'll get better playing for Bill Self, just the way he stepped it up Tuesday night after intermission. But if you're asking me off what we've seen so far whether its Wiggins or Parker, I'm going to tell you it's Parker in a landslide. And we'll delve further to Mr. Jabari Parker in a moment.

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