Michigan State vs. Kansas: Four Things to Know

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 17th, 2015

Tonight the fifth annual Champions Classic will tip off at the United Center in Chicago where Michigan State will face Kansas in the late game. The Spartans and Jayhawks — both ranked in the top 15 — bring the usual lofty season expectations each program is accustomed to. Bill Self and Tom Izzo have built the type of rosters that seem to be the recipe for success in today’s college game: a healthy mix of experienced upperclassmen along with some talented freshmen. In order to prepare you for tonight’s game and get you familiar with some of the new faces, here are four things you need to know before you tune in to watch.

Deyonta Davis will need to keep dominating inside against Kansas. (Rey De Rio/Getty Images)

Deyonta Davis faces his first major challenge in the paint against Kansas. (Rey De Rio/Getty Images)

  1. Deyonta Down Low. Michigan State lost a lot of its muscle in the post when Branden Dawson graduated but Izzo seems to have found a more-than-suitable replacement in four-star freshman Deyonta Davis. The Muskegon, Michigan, native didn’t let his youth and inexperience make him reticent in his inaugural outing on Friday, as evidenced by his stat line of 13 points on 14 shots (team-high), 11 rebounds, and five blocks against Florida Atlantic. But his head coach might have to calm his budding star down a bit tonight because Davis won’t be able to physically bully the Jayhawks in the paint like he did against the Owls.
  2. No Cheick Diallo. While Michigan State’s stud freshman has already made his presence known, Kansas has to play the waiting game to showcase its most prominent newcomer. The NCAA has yet to clear Cheick Diallo due to questions of academic eligibility and his relationship with his legal guardian. The native Malian’s absence likely doesn’t tip the scales too much in the Spartans’ favor inside — Diallo only started playing basketball in high school — but it does take another athletic and long forward off the floor for Kansas.
  3. Balanced Spartans. It’s unlikely you’ll see any player on Michigan State’s roster as a Naismith finalist in March, but this is an incredibly deep team where the leading scorer will vary from game to game. Even though Izzo’s squad is devoid of big-time player, the roster is filled with the likes of Denzel ValentineTum Tum Nairn, Bryan Forbes, Matt Costello and Eron Harris, all of whom bring years of experience along with above average talent. In their season opener, six players scored seven points or more. Harris, who averaged 22.0 PPG in his last season with West Virginia, came off the bench on Friday — a testament to the Spartans’ outstanding depth. Look for that balanced attack to continue tonight as Michigan State tries to expose mismatches with the Jayhawks’ defense.
  4. Sharpshooting Jayhawks. Bill Self has primarily instituted the high-low motion offense throughout his career with great success. One of the tenets of the system is to isolate one of his two big men for an easy score, but in this season’s opener, the Jayhawks seem more inclined to make the three-point shot their offensive focus. Kansas shot 19-of-35 from the beyond the arc and three-pointers constituted over 42 percent of all their shots against Northern Colorado (last season it was only 28.4 percent). With players like Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene capable of filling it up from distance, expect Self to give these guys the green light for tonight and the rest of season.
Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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