Spartans amped for early test vs. Jayhawks
In a week dominated by Michigan State's matchup with Ohio State on the football field, the Michigan State basketball team is set to take part in one of its bigger non-conference matchups of the season.
No. 13 Michigan State plays No. 4 Kansas Tuesday in the Champions Classic at the United Center in Chicago.
"How does it get better than this when you're at Michigan State, with our football team playing Ohio State for a big game?" Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We're in the Champions Classic. … It's a great time to be a Spartan. I think there's only three schools that are ranked in the AP top 15 from both (sports), and we're one of them along with North Carolina and Oklahoma. That's pretty good."
The Spartans are 2-2 in the event, which also includes Duke and Kentucky. The Blue Devils and Wildcats tip off at 7:30 p.m. followed by the Spartans and Jayhawks.
Michigan State won the only meeting between the teams in the Champions Classic, beating Kansas, 67-64, in Atlanta in 2012, while the Jayhawks won the last meeting, beating the Spartans in the championship of the Orlando Classic last season, 61-56.
Izzo is also 6-5 against Kansas coach Bill Self, dating back to Self's time coaching at Illinois.
"We've had some incredible battles with them over the years," Izzo said. "But Kansas does possess one of the best inside games that I think we'll face all year.
"They've got depth in there. They've got five or six guys. They've got experience in there with four out of the five guys, and the one that's not, (Carlton) Bragg, is a heck of a player. That's going to be a big challenge for us."
Kansas starts a pair of seniors and two juniors, and the depth down low will be a challenge, especially with junior Gavin Schilling missing his second game with a turf toe injury and sophomore Marvin Clark still working his way back from a broken foot.
But Izzo believes Michigan State's trip to Italy this summer will help going against the Jayhawks, especially for freshman Deyonta Davis.
"DD went against stronger guys in that tournament, when you look at some of the players we went against, from the teams we played," Izzo said.
"So I think it's going to be great to remind (the freshman) that we have played against very good competition, and that's the advantage of doing it early in the year. It's the advantage of taking that trip."
Kansas could get a boost if highly recruited Cheick Diallo is ruled eligible for the game. The NCAA has yet to clear Diallo as it investigates his academic eligibility and his relationship with his guardian. He sat out Kansas' season-opening win over Northern Colorado on Friday.
Izzo has no desire to see the freshman play.
"Hell no, I don't want to see him," Izzo said. "The competitive side of me is competitive enough. For Bill's sake, I hope he's eligible. For my sake, he can be eligible the next game."
Izzo said sophomore guard Tum Tum Nairn is suffering from plantar fasciitis.
"He's just tougher than nails," Izzo said. "He's a warrior, that kid. I don't think it's hindering him too much. I don't think he'd let it."
No. 13 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Kansas
Tip-off: 10 Tuesday, United Center, Chicago
TV/radio: ESPN/WJR 760
Records: No. 13 Michigan State 1-0; No. 4 Kansas 1-0
Notable: Five different Jayhawks scored in double figures in their victory over Northern Colorado. Brannen Green scored 18 off the bench while Perry Ellis chipped in 16 points. Kansas shot 55.7 percent from the floor. … Kansas returns four All-Big 12 performers from last season's 27-9 team that won KU's 11th-straight Big 12 regular season title.