Tuesday night brings us the first #1 vs. #2 match-up college basketball has seen in five-and-a-half years, as the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats take on the second-ranked Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic at the United Center in Chicago. Two of our microsite writers – Deepak Jayanti (Big Ten) and David Changas (SEC) – examine three key questions heading into the game.
1. Can anyone from Michigan State stop Julius Randle?
David: The second most ballyhooed freshman in the country, Randle has lived up to the hype, albeit against inferior competition. His NBA-ready frame and soft touch allow him to get to the basket with ease and knock down mid-range jumpers, and will make it difficult for Adreian Payne and company to slow him down. It’s safe to assume Randle will get his points and will cause significant problems for the Spartans, but the likely key will be Michigan State’s success in limiting Randle’s talented supporting cast. Whether it can do so will determine who prevails in this battle of heavyweights.
Deepak: You might expect Tom Izzo to use Payne against Randle, but this strategy could backfire if he can’t keep up with Randle’s quickness. Randle’s size and quickness cannot be matched by anybody on the Spartans, but, Branden Dawson is Izzo’s best defensive stopper. Dawson is quick and has the meat on his bones to keep Randle in front of him and force the freshman to use his jumper. It is unclear if Randle has the post moves to use his size advantage to beat Dawson in the paint, but if he doesn’t, then the 6’6″ wing could put up a decent defensive effort against him.