As early-season basketball games go, it doesn't get much better than a clash between No. 14 Michigan State and No. 7 Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic.
Both teams are fresh off of successful 2011-12 campaigns, though the Spartans somewhat disappointingly fell to Louisville in the Sweet 16, while Kansas lost to Kentucky in the national title game.
And both will be overcoming the loss of key players. Michigan State will need to find a way to replace Draymond Green, while Kansas must replace Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor.
2012-13 promises to be a great season for each team. On Tuesday night, we'll find out which side is further along early in the season.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
When: Tuesday, November 13 at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN; WatchESPN
Listen: Sirius 91
Betting Line: TBD
Michigan State Injuries (via USA Today)
F Matt Costello, Back, Questionable
F Kenny Kaminski, Shoulder, Out
Kansas Injuries (via USA Today)
F Kevin Young, Hand, Questionable
F Zach Peters, Shoulder, Out
What's At Stake?
Michigan already lost its opener to UConn, so the Spartans will be trying avoid an 0-2 start. For both teams, this is the opportunity to prove they are among the nation's elite and to pad their NCAA tournament resumes.
What They're Saying
Michigan State will be a good team this season, you can bet on that. But don't be shocked if Kansas wins this game. As Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press notes, the Spartans starting slow is nothing new and nothing to be surprised about:
MSU's early-season stumbles and late-season surges go hand in hand, and always will as long as Izzo coaches.
Izzo's offense, in particular, needs time every season to become efficient. It is often clunky in November and razor-sharp in March, and there's no way to shortcut that process.
That's especially true of a team like this with young pieces and an enormous void left by Draymond Green.
Most Important Player to Watch: Jeff Withey, Kansas
The big center opened the season against Southeast Missouri State with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, and he'll be looked to to anchor this talented Kansas team on the block this season.
Withey won't generally pace the Jayhawks in the scoring department—heck, Perry Ellis will score more than him on the block this year—but Withey's defensive presence and rebounding will be a major factor this season and against Michigan State.
If he owns the paint, Kansas wins, plain and simple.
Key Matchup: Keith Appling vs. Elijah Johnson
I don't know how often the guards will find themselves matched up against one another (Appling plays the point, while Johnson is more a combo guard), but the player who has the bigger impact will go a long way toward determining the winner of this game.
Appling was one bright spot in Michigan State's 66-62 loss to UConn, scoring 17 points with four assists, three rebounds and a steal. Johnson was a bust against Southeast Missouri State, however, managing just four points, three rebounds and an assist in 22 minutes before fouling out.
College basketball remains all about the guards, so watch these two carefully. If either one of these guys goes off, that team will be tough to beat.
Michigan State doesn't have an answer for Withey or the Kansas frontcourt, plain and simple. That said, expect a close, well-played game, with Kansas winning, 68-63.
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