X-Factor No. 1: Foul trouble
Let's go ahead and assume that Michigan State is a little more disciplined than UNC-Asheville and Northern Kentucky, but the fact remains that Kentucky is averaging 42 free-throw attempts per game this season.
Julius Randle has been the biggest benefactor of all the whistles, converting 21 of his 27 free throws. If Kentucky's primary post presence can get Adreian Payne and Matt Costello into early foul trouble, this game could be over by halftime.
Michigan State does run deeper than most teams in the country in terms of quality reserve players, but the Spartans don't have much size coming off the bench. If Payne and Costello are forced to ride the pine, Kentucky should overindulge on points in the paint.
X-Factor No. 2: Keith Appling's assist-to-turnover ratio
Michigan State's starting point guard recorded more than two assists in just two of his final 13 games of the 2012-13 season.
Standing at least five inches shorter than each member of Kentucky's eight-man rotation, Appling is going to need to create shots for his teammates in lieu of forcing his own shots.
X-Factor No. 3: James Young's shooting
Young is expected to eventually blossom into one of the most prolific small forwards in the nation, but he hasn't shown it yet this season. He has made just five of his 18 field-goal attempts and figures to spend much of the game blanketed by Branden Dawson.
With a grand total of five rebounds, two assists, one block, no steals and three turnovers through two games, Young hasn't been worth much on the floor unless his shots are falling.