2018 State Farm Champions Classic Opens with Jayhawks and Spartans Clash
Two of the top teams in the nation face off in the State Farm Champions Classic in Indianapolis on Tuesday. Top-ranked Kansas and No. 10 Michigan State battle in the season opening tournament.
The Jayhawks and Spartans lost key players from last season’s squads. They both bring back some experienced players, as well as some top recruits to make themselves into title contenders again.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Kansas -4.5; O/U: 155.5.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo would like to have NBA lottery picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. back. That isn’t happening, but he has three starters returning. Point guard Cassius Winston is the team’s leading returning scorer at 12.6 points. He is also the Big Ten’s assist leader at 6.9.
Forward Nick Ward will be the key for the Spartans down low. He averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes as a sophomore.
Ward and the Spartans could have a tough time in the paint against Kansas. The presence of 7-0 junior center Udoka Azubuike is menacing. He averaged 13 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks last season. The kid is a load on both ends of the floor.
Jayhawks fans are excited about the brother duo of Dedric and K.J. Lawson. They are eligible to play after transferring from Memphis where they averaged 19.2 and 12.3 points, respectively, in 2016-17.
Jayhawks and Spartans were 30-win Teams Last Season
The Spartans were 30-5 in 2017. Ward and Winston have garnered a majority of the preseason headlines and accolades. Coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State knows the most important is guard Joshua Langford. The junior was the only Spartan to start every game last season and averaged 11.7 points. He was inconsistent with his shot and his scoring output.
Winston led the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage in 2017-18, hitting 49.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
The Jayhawks were 31-8 in 2017. The departure of the team’s leading scorer and assist man, Devonte’ Graham, is going to be an impact early. Coach Bill Self has to figure out a new starter at the point guard position, though he has a few options.
To start the season, Self will likely go with highly regarded freshman Devon Dotson. He is a McDonald’s All-American who averaged seven points and three assists in the team’s two exhibition contests.
If Dotson struggles, Self can turn to California transfer Charlie Moore. He led the Golden Bears in assists as a freshman, though both will certainly see plenty of time throughout the season.
Azubuike led the nation and set the Kansas and Big 12 single-season record for field goal percentage at 77.0 in 2007-18.
PREDICTION: Kansas 82, Michigan State 72
College Basketball Betting Odds & Trends
|Michigan State Spartans|
|Michigan State is 0-5 ATS in its last 5 games|
|Michigan State is 14-2 SU in its last 16 games|
|The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Michigan State’s last 9 games|
|Michigan State is 6-2 ATS in its last 8 games when playing Kansas|
|Michigan State is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing Kansas|
|The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Michigan State’s last 6 games when playing Kansas|
|Kansas is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games|
|The total has gone OVER in 6 of Kansas’s last 7 games|
|Kansas is 2-6 ATS in its last 8 games when playing Michigan State|
|Kansas is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games when playing Michigan State|
|The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Kansas’s last 6 games when playing Michigan State|
Michigan State home to Florida Gulf Coast Sunday, November 11
Kansas home to Vermont Monday, November 12
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