Basketball is finally back. The showdowns between the top teams in the country begin tonight with the double header at the United Center for the Champions Classic. It kicks off with No. 2 Kentucky taking on No. 5 Duke followed up by No. 13 Michigan State against No. 4 Kansas
The date is November 17th, 2015 and 5-star freshman Cheick Diallo is yet to be cleared. However, Bill Self and the Jayhawks are still ready to kick off the season with a bang.
Ok… technically the KU Basketball season already kicked off with an absolute rout of Northern Colorado last Friday in a 109-72 victory, but just like every other college basketball fan would say, it’s all about the big games. This is Kansas’s first chance to show how it will transition with its matured older roster combined with the new young guns of Carlton Bragg and Lagerald Vick.
Michigan State has a new hotshot of its own in Deyonta Davis, who actually has guarded a Jayhawk and played with one in the United Center last April in the McDonald’s All-American Game in Diallo and Bragg. Davis started his college career with a double double (13 points, 11 rebounds, 8 offensive) in a 82-55 beating of Florida Atlantic. Bill Self will plan to use the rotation of Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Carlton Bragg, and the ever-consistent senior Perry Ellis to maintain the presence in the paint.
Michigan State has some injuries to hinder them before they tip off as junior Gavin Shilling is out indefinitely with a toe injury and as sophomore Marvin Clark Jr. recovers from a stress reaction in his foot. This gives the Spartans less of a presence inside which counters against the loss of Diallo. This however gives Michigan State’s Davis more of a chance to prove his ability on the big stage.
Denzel Valentine returns for his senior season ready to take the next step coming off a 13 point, 8 rebound, 9 assist performance last game. It’ll be a battle of guards as Frank Mason has shown his athleticism and higher basketball IQ this season as he has proven to be a point guard who can truly run the offense, putting up 9 assists last game as well. Devonte Graham also has 8 assists as Self has shown to favor running both point guards on the court at the same time.
Every piece on this Jayhawk team has had a shining moment in the first two exhibition games and Northern Colorado. Carlton Bragg came off right out the gate with a big game against Pitt State. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, commonly referred to as “Svi,” showed his range against Fort Hays State, and Brannen Greene followed it up the next game. This is a stacked Kansas team that is one of the most complete Bill Self has coached. The only thing it needs to push it over the edge and make them a national contending favorite is for Cheick Diallo to be cleared.
You always know what Perry Ellis will give you any given night, as consistency should be his middle name. This game should come down to the presence Wayne Selden will makes, as he has the perfect build for the next level, and all he has lacked is the consistency. His presence will make a huge impact on this game. However, a big factor in this game is the rebounding battle. KU is returning four starters from a team that ranked 17th in the nation in rebounding last year.
If Michigan State can limit Kansas’s three point attempts, they can come through with a victory this Tuesday night as KU opened up 15 for 26 from 3 against Northern Colorado. KU comes off a season where they ranked in the top ten in three point attempts and Michigan State allowed 33.2% shooting from deep. I see Kansas making just enough threes to counter Michigan State’s second-chance opportunities.
Prediction: Jayhawks 87, Spartans 80
University of Kansas
Stats and Comments:
Last meeting: Kansas wins 61-56 over Michigan State in Orlando Classic 2014. (Ellis 17 pts)
Tom Izzo is 6-5 against Bill Self and has won three out of the last four.