Game 1: No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Kansas – Preview and Prediction

KU looks to move .500 all-time in the Championship Classic.

PODCAST PREVIEW: LINK (go to 1:12:20 mark of podcast)

The No. 1 ranked Jayhawks open up the season on Tuesday night in Indianapolis when they take on No. 10 Michigan State as part of the eighth annual Championship Classic. Kansas is 3-4 all-time in the event and took down Kentucky last season in Chicago.

Game Info and Notes:

  • Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 at 6:00 pm CT
  • Opening Line: KU -5
  • Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, Ind.
  • ESPN or the WatchESPN App
  • Michigan State holds the all-time series 7-6
  • KU is 0-2 against Michigan State in the Champions Classic (67-64 in 2012 and 79-73 in 2015).
  • KU Junior, Dedric Lawson, was named Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year and First Team All-Conference
  • The last time Kansas played in Indianapolis, they lost to Kentucky in the 2014 Champions Classic
  • Kansas is 14-1 in season openers under head coach Bill Self.
  • Junior center Udoka Azubuike is KU’s leading returning scorer (13.0 ppg) and rebounder (7.0). Lagerald Vick is the lone senior on the KU roster and averaged 12.1 ppg last season
About Michigan State

The Spartans come in ranked No. 10 in the nation, but they enter the 2018-19 without the hype some of Tom Izzo’s other squads have garnered. They lose key players from last year’s Big Ten championship squad in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson. That being said, they return experienced talent in the form of Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid. All three played against the Jayhawks two years ago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Spartans to Watch

Nick Ward – 6’8″ junior, forward

Despite averaging under 20 minutes in each of his first two seasons, Ward has put up big numbers for the Spartans. Last year, he averaged 12.4 PPG, 7. 1 RPG and 1.3 BPG. In the 2017 NCAA Tournament against KU, he scored 13 points and had four boards. This time around, he’ll face a much more formidable and deeper KU frontcourt.

Cassius Winston – 6’0″ junior, guard

Winston took a step forward last season upping his numbers across the board. The Detroit native averaged 12.6 PPG, 6.9 APG and shot nearly 50% from three-point range, bettering his percentage 11% from his freshman season. In games against Duke and North Carolina a season ago, Winston did go rather quiet by averaging 5.0 PPG and shot just 30%.

Matt McQuaid – 6’4″ senior, center

Most Jayhawks fans might remember McQuaid from the 2015 game when he came off the bench and went 3-3 from beyond the arc. That’s exactly what McQuaid can do and that is fill it up from the outside, as he’s nearly a 40% career shooter from deep.

Prediction

Kansas 78, Michigan State 70

It’s hard to predict what will happen in this early season games, but I’m going to go ahead with Kansas. The Jayhawks might have lost a lot from last year’s Final Four squad, but they reload this season, and not like how most teams do with freshmen. KU does bring back veterans in Udoka Azubuike, Lagerald Vick and Marcus Garrett. The Jayhawks also bring in a trio of transfers (Lawson, Charlie Moore, and KJ Lawson) that are supplemented by top-flight freshman (Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and David McCormack).

On paper, which is really all we can judge by at this moment, I like Kansas’ team much better than Michigan State’s. Give me KU in a decently close game, but one that is really never in doubt.

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.