Two Hall of Fame coaches, two deep rosters, and high expectations fuel this big matchup between the No. 1 Michigan State Spartans and No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats at the Champions Classic.
Coming into this game being preseason-ranked No. 1, the Spartans come in with big, lofty goals after advancing to last year’s Final Four with the upset win over the heavily-favored Zion Williamson-led Duke Blue Devils.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats were eliminated in a hard-fought overtime loss the elite eight to SEC rival, Auburn Tigers.
Tom Izzo’s Spartans return a squad who had only graduated two starting seniors on their roster last year. They also will be without two senior guards as Kyle Ahrens is questionable to return with an ankle injury suffered in the Big Ten Tournament and Joshua Langford, who’s out indefinitely due to complications from his foot injury.
Among key players returning is senior point guard Cassius Winston, who was selected to be preseason AP All-America Team. Joining Winston on the starting lineup is junior forward Xavier Tillman, sophomore forward Thomas Kithier and guard Aaron Henry, and freshman guard Mark ‘Rocket’ Watts.
Kentucky is also fielding a stout lineup as well for head coach John Calipari.
The Wildcats will be led by freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, the consensus five-star player who was No. 13 overall recruit by ESPN. Joining Maxey in the Kentucky lineup for notable names will be sophomore guard Ashton Brooks, freshman forwards Keion Brooks and Brennan Canada, sophomore forward E.J. Montgomery and junior 6’ 11” forward Nick Richards.
The Spartans approach this game as 2.5-point favorites over the Wildcats in the betting lines. The matchup is set for Tuesday Night immediately after the game of No. 4 Blue Devils and No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.