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College hoops is tangled up in (different shades of) blue

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Maximum hype around Zion's unique skillset (0:35)

Duke great Jay Williams details how Zion Williamson looks to live up to Mike Krzyzewski's praise as "the most unique athlete I've coached at Duke." (0:35)

INDIANAPOLIS --- Coaches always tell players to have a "next game" attitude. Cam Reddish, one of four top-15 recruits on Duke's roster, and his teammates had not played their first exhibition when he spoke with ESPN last month in Durham, North Carolina, about the Kentucky-Duke season opener at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

But the five-star freshman had no time for clich├ęd responses.

"I think that sets the tone for our season," Reddish said of Tuesday's game. "I feel like we come out, come out strong, aggressive, I feel like we win that game, we'll have a great season. I'm not even gonna think in any other direction -- just to win that game."

On Tuesday, college basketball's most meaningful matchup will commence at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN when No. 2 Kentucky and No. 4 Duke meet at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It's the main event after No. 1 Kansas faces off against No. 10 Michigan State at 7 p.m. ET.

Yes, North Carolina-Duke and Louisville-Kentucky remain two of the greatest rivalries in college basketball. In the one-and-done era, however, Kentucky and Duke have emerged as the premier programs. This is just their third matchup since the NBA changed its age limit for prospects to 19 years old beginning with the NBA draft in 2006, a year that altered college basketball.

John Calipari is responsible for turning the NBA's decision into an opportunity to convince elite athletes to play together in college for a single season. He's the face of the one-and-done culture. But Tuesday's matchup punctuates Mike Krzyzewski's remarkable shift from a leader of veteran talent to an assemblyman of freshman stars.

Overall, Duke has sent 11 freshmen to the first round of the NBA draft in the one-and-done era. Kentucky has set the standard with 23 in the same period.

Reddish, RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Tre Jones and Joey Baker represent the No. 1 freshman class on ESPN.com. Kentucky's incoming crew is ranked second.

In his first five seasons at Kentucky, Calipari signed the No. 1 recruiting class four times. But Krzyzewski has locked up the No. 1 class -- with Kentucky finishing second -- in four of the past five seasons.

The latter's move into the one-and-done market has generated back-and-forth banter with Calipari. After Williamson committed to Duke, the freshman talked about the value of the bond among Duke players, past and present.

Calipari seemed to counter Krzyzewski's loyalty pitch with a statement posted on the team's website.

"I don't sell, when you come here: 'The university and the state will take care of you for the rest of your life,'" Calipari said. "You may buy that, and I've got some great property and some swampland down in Florida to sell you too. Every one of us in this country is based on, you have to take care of yourself, prepare yourself, and then when you make it you make sure you're helping and along the way you're bringing other people with you. That's what we're trying to do: just give these guys the best opportunity."

This is college basketball's Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers coaching matchup. Krzyzewski and Calipari have said they're friends, but Duke has seemed to master the formula Calipari created, producing a competitive energy between the two coaches.

They've circled one another for years but haven't met in the NCAA tournament in the one-and-done era. In 2015, a 38-0 Kentucky team that seemed destined to face Duke, the eventual national champion, in the title game lost to Wisconsin in the semifinals.

But this year could end how it begins.

Kentucky, which added all-Pac 12 first-team forward Reid Travis as a grad transfer, and Duke, which might have the top three picks in the 2019 NBA draft on its roster, could meet in Minneapolis at the end of the season.

"These guys are really good," Krzyzewski said. "They want to win. And they're not phonies. They're the real deal. I like my group a lot. I like them a lot."

Quinn Cook, the Golden State Warriors guard who led Duke to that 2015 championship, said this season's Blue Devils have a chance to become a special group.

"They could be really good," Cook told ESPN. "They have talented recruits coming in. Got some guys coming back. Obviously with Coach K, you'll always have a chance. Just buy in. Take it one day at a time. Our leaders will lead, and our freshmen will buy in, and everything will go great."

The narrative about talented freshmen was once owned solely by Calipari and Kentucky. That's why this matchup matters. Duke and Kentucky are in a perpetual battle for the best players in America. In the one-and-done era, Krzyzewski has been Calipari's only true threat.

"The only program in college basketball that exists on the level of Kentucky, from fan interest to NBA prospects to star power of the coaches to recruiting success to TV ratings, is Duke," said Matt Jones, host and creator of Kentucky Sports Radio and a diehard Wildcats fan. "While Duke and Kentucky can be debated amongst the top three to five programs, in terms of overall success, in terms of which two programs matter most to college basketball, they are the clear top two. For Kentucky fans, every game against Duke is a chance to re-establish [Kentucky] as top dog."

Kentucky will have an opportunity to make its argument for that spot on Tuesday. Calipari's team features America's deepest frontcourt. Reid, PJ Washington, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards could all start for any team in the country.

Kentucky's backcourt is stacked with talented players, too. Ashton Hagans is one of the fastest players in college basketball. Tyler Herro is a shooter, but he's also athletic enough to create shots off the dribble. Immanuel Quickley is a big, aggressive guard. Quade Green is the veteran who should anchor Kentucky's bench.

Calipari, who told reporters earlier this week that "we may be facing a team that's better than us," has a dangerous group, and he knows as much.

"I may start one group of five and maybe three different guys in the second half," he said after his team's blue-white scrimmage in Lexington. "I may do that for a couple times just to feel this out and see what it looks like. But it appears as though we have 10 guys who can play. But there are going to be guys who separate themselves and play more."

That's part of why Tuesday's season-opening matchup means so much.

It won't deflate either team's aspirations to secure a high seed on Selection Sunday. But it might matter for recruiting and the evolving battle between two schools that have dominated the one-and-done climate.

Plus, this could be a trailer for the feature if the two teams meet in April to fight for the national title.

Reddish said the freshmen on both teams know one another well due to their battles on grassroots courts throughout their careers. But this is the first time they'll compete on a nationally televised stage in a matchup that has become college basketball's most fascinating affair.

"Obviously, I played against those guys growing up," Reddish said. "It should be fun. I'm looking forward to it."