The No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks and No. 13 Michigan State Spartans will go head-to-head in a battle of college basketball titans. Below is the Kansas vs. Michigan State prediction and game preview.
Kansas vs. Michigan State Game Preview
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 17
Game Time: 10 p.m. ET
Venue: United Center, Chicago, Ill.
Why You Need To Care
It’s the other half of the fifth-annual Champions Classic. After Duke and Kentucky battle it out, Kansas and Michigan State will go toe-to-toe. It could be another glimpse into the upcoming NCAA tournament. Tom Izzo seems to always find a way to lead his team on a deep run into March and Bill Self is no stranger to coaching championship-level teams either.
This may be the first time since the 2011-12 season that Self doesn’t have a freshman who projects as a first-round selection in the NBA draft. That’s not to say that Lagerald Vick, Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg Jr. aren’t talented, but in the span of three years, the Jayhawks produced Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Kansas was one of the best rebounding teams in the nation last season (ranked No. 17), and the Jayhawks are returning four starters from that 27-9 team. Although Michigan State leads the all-time series 6-5, Kansas won the last meeting, 61-56.
Izzo is five wins away from win No. 500, while Self is hoping a win against MSU is his 560th.
Why Michigan State Will Win
Obviously, it’s still really early, but the Spartans seem like one of the most complete teams in the nation. Again, I hate to make any kind of universal statement about a team this early, but who am I to doubt Izzo? MSU has a fair balance of experience, with talented senior point guard Denzel Valentine leading the charge. Before last year’s loss to Kansas in the Orlando Classic, Izzo had beaten Self in the previous three meetings. MSU beat Kansas 67-64 in the Spartans’ last meeting in the Champions Classic in 2012. The history is there, but we all know teams change ever year.
For the Spartans to win, they’ll need to share the ball like they did against Florida Atlantic. MSU had 25 assists in its opening game against FAU, but only recorded one steal. The Spartans need to have more active hands on defense, and that starts with Valentine and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. They also need to trust each other to do the job they’re assigned to do. Kansas shot 37.9 percent from three last season and opened up against Northern Colorado shooting 15-of-26 from three. Limiting the looks from the perimeter will lead the Jayhawks to force the ball into the paint and take away offensive options for Self’s squad.
Why Kansas Will Win
The Jayhawks can shoot the long ball, and they can shoot it well. They were No. 8 in the country with 287 three-point attempts last season. If they get some penetration from Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, creating some drive-and-kick scenarios, that’s where Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden can have a big impact. Kansas needs to keep Michigan State off the boards and off the line. The last thing the Jayhawks want to happen is to shoot lights out from deep only to have the Spartans fight their way back with second-chance opportunities and free throws. MSU shot 28 free throws against FAU and made 17 of them. Coincidentally, the Spartans won by 17. If the Jayhawks win on the glass and don’t get too greedy on the defensive end, they can pull out a win.
Players Who Matter
Michigan State fans should break out the hearts and silhouettes of Cupid for this game because they’re going to need Valentine to shine. He dropped 13 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds against the Owls. He’ll have a chance to prove that game wasn’t a fluke against Kansas. If Valentine can create easy buckets for his teammates and clean up on long rebounds, he’ll have the Spartans in good shape. Eron Harris played 17 minutes against FAU and went 0-for-4 from three. If he’s going to play meaningful minutes for Izzo, Harris needs to make the most of his long-range looks. The transfer from West Virginia shot 42.2 percent from three as a sophomore with the Mountaineers. If he nets a couple quick jumpers, he could be a real x-factor for MSU.
On the flipside, Kansas has a couple of x-factors of its own. For a few years, Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr. have been overshadowed by some of those phenomenal freshmen mentioned earlier. Ellis had to compliment McLemore first, but then both he and Selden played second fiddle to Wiggins. And then Oubre took some of the limelight last season. This is the time to shine for Selden and Ellis. Both, at one time or another, had first-round expectations but haven’t lived up to them. This is their season. Selden needs to prove he can be a playmaking guard who can contribute when the pace of the game changes. Ellis will have an opportunity to round out his game. In his fourth year, he’s shown he can shoot (41.8 percent from three) and rebound (5.7 per game), but he’ll need to consistently create his own shot — and shots for others — if Kansas is going to beat teams like MSU.
What’s Going To Happen?
Kansas is going to score … a lot. Ellis and Selden will lead the charge against the Spartans, who let opponents shoot 33.2 percent from three last year. Valentine is going to limit the damage with an all-around performance and Deyonta Davis will do work for Michigan State on the boards, but their efforts won’t be enough to overcome the Jayhawks. Kansas will make one three too many for the Spartans’ liking.
Kansas vs. Michigan State Prediction