vs. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Champions Classic – Atlanta, GA
Tip-off: Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Kansas -2.5, Total: 129.5
After No. 21 Michigan State began the season with a loss, the Spartans will look to avoid an 0-2 start as they play No. 7 Kansas in the Champions Classic Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Kansas was able to win its opening game against Southeast Missouri State with phenomenal defense, holding them to 29% from the field. And Michigan State is coming off a game in which it failed to find any offensive groove, shooting just 38% from the field against Connecticut. Not that the Jayhawks were better offensively in their opener—shooting 39%—but they picked up 49 rebounds (+12 margin) and were able to clean up for the win. But with two of college basketball’s premier coaches going against each other in Tom Izzo and Bill Self, each team figures to have a new game plan and make for an exciting neutral site matchup at the site of the 2013 Final Four.
Can Spartans keep it close on Tuesday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Last season, the StatFox group had a combined 65% ATS (206-110-4) success rate in college basketball Best Bets. StatFox Scott led the way at an amazing 71% ATS (56-23-1) followed closely behind by StatFox Gary (68% ATS), StatFox Brian (62% ATS) and StatFox Dave (60% ATS). On Monday, the experts went a collective 4-2-1 ATS with StatFox Dave going 2-0 ATS and StatFox Brian going 1-0-1 ATS. For the season, Brian leads the experts at 3-1-1 ATS (75%).
Michigan State missed last year’s centerpiece Draymond Green in the opener, but his absence has paved the way for new stars to shine. Keith Appling led the Spartans with 17 points and four assists in the opener, although the team’s passing must improve this time around as they just tallied nine assists (and 15 turnovers) as a team. Beyond Appling and Dawson, there will be a lot of pressure on senior center Derrick Nix to man the post against the sizable Jayhawks frontcourt. Nix stands at just 6-foot-9, but pulled in 11 rebounds in the opener, with seven of them coming on the offensive glass.
Center Jeff Withey put on a clinic in Kansas’ season-opener, pulling in 12 boards while blocking five shots and putting home 17 points. At 7-feet, he owns a 3-inch height advantage over Nix and must take advantage of that on the block. Highly touted freshman Perry Ellis also showed his potential in the game, scoring 15 points with eight rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. The one player who must step up is senior Elijah Johnson, who put up just four points (1-of-5 FG) before fouling out—he will be critical in his matchup against Appling. The key defensive matchup for KU may be Travis Releford, who played a team-high 34 minutes, guarding Dawson on the wing. Whoever wins this battle may just tip this game in their favor, but Releford struggled in the opener with four turnovers and just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. Kansas shot just 2-of-21 from three-point land in the opener.