For the 14th time in the history of both storied programs, Kansas and Michigan State will square off, this time to open another college basketball season filled with hope and excitement for both sides.
Two champions, at the Champions Classic, ready to do battle at 6 p.m. Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with the victor getting an early lift to its 2018-19 season.
Kansas, with names like Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Nick Collison, Frank Mason and so many more highlighting its storied history, opens the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, with a deep and talented roster capable of making a run at another national title.
Michigan State, with names like Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves, Draymond Green, Denzel Valentine and Miles Bridges carrying on the Spartan tradition, enters Tuesday as the No. 10 team in the country, with a group of talented veterans who are poised to continue their dominance in the Big Ten and push for yet another trip to college basketball’s promised land.
And then there are the two coaches. Izzo. Self. First names are unnecessary. Combined, the two have won 1,228 games, with Self carrying a 654-201 career record into the 2018-19 season and Izzo sitting at 574-225 during his 24-year career at Michigan State.
While Izzo owns the upper-hand in head-to-head match-ups between these two elite head coaches (7-6 all-time, 4-3 vs. Self at Kansas), both would tell you today that the only meeting that means anything is the next one. Self because Tuesday’s matchup represents an opportunity for his new-look squad to test itself against a big time program with a veteran team on a big stage. And Izzo because Tuesday’s clash gives him a chance to take down No. 1 and one of the top coaches in the college game.
Regardless of who wins, who loses and how it all goes down, the two coaches who first became closely connected during Self’s three seasons at Illinois, have the utmost respect for one another.
Self, back in 2017 during a second-round NCAA Tournament matchup between these two programs, called Izzo “a great role model” who had “a great influence on me.”
And Izzo, whose team lost that round, paid Self the ultimate compliment.
“Bill and I have been through a lot,” he said. “We’ve played each other in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve played in the (Champions Classic) more than a couple times. We’ve been friends for a long time. So it’s been a long history. Great respect for what he’s done.... It’s amazing, amazing that they’ve won, what, 12, 13 Big 12 championships in a row. What all coaches aspire to do is not win big games, but have consistency and I don’t know of anybody who’s been more consistent than Bill.”
Here’s a look at all 13 previous meetings between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1960.
March 19, 2017 – Top-seeded Kansas knocked off No. 9 seed Michigan State, 90-70, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla. Detroit native Josh Jackson, who picked KU over MSU during his recruitment, led Kansas with 18 points and sent the Jayhawks styling into the Sweet 16.
Nov. 17, 2015 – The last time KU faced Michigan State at the Champions Classic featured MSU star Denzel Valentine scoring 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a 79-73 Spartans victory in Chicago. Michigan State erased a 13-point Kansas lead to pull out the victory.
Nov. 30, 2014 – In the championship game of the Orlando Classic, Perry Ellis — the tourney’s MVP — led No. 11 Kansas to a 61-56 victory over the 20th-ranked Spartans in a game that, believe it or not, featured a few young faces named Graham, Mason, Lucas and more. Neither team shot better than 37 percent from the floor in the dog fight.
Nov. 13, 2012 – The last (and only) time KU played the early game at the Champions Classic, Michigan State came from behind late to hand Kansas a 67-64 loss in Atlanta. The Jayhawks led by five with five minutes to play but were outscored 13-5 the rest of the way. Elijah Johnson’s 16 points led KU.
March 27, 2009 – The two teams locked horns in a rematch of a regular season loss by Kansas at the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis and the Jayhawks turned in a much better effort the second time around. Led by Sherron Collins and Cole Alrdich, third-seeded KU actually led the second-seeded Spartans with around 2:00 to play. But the eventual national runner-up Spartans made all the right plays down the stretch to advance to the Elite Eight, 67-62.
Jan. 10, 2009 – In KU’s final non-conference game of the 2008-09 season, the Jayhawks were battered by the eighth-ranked Spartans, 75-62 in East Lansing, Mich. The Jayhawks are 0-3 all-time in games played on Michigan State’s campus and in this one, Sherron Collins led KU with 25 points and eight assists but also added eight turnovers. KU trailed 37-18 at halftime.
Nov. 25, 2003 – The Jayhawks got tough in a home, nonconference clash with the Spartans for an 81-74 victory at Allen Fieldhouse. Wayne Simien led KU with 28 points and eight rebounds.
Dec. 7, 1999 – Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves helped No. 4 Michigan State withstand a 19-2 second-half run by No. 5 Kansas in the Great Eight Classic in Chicago, 66-54. Kenny Gregory led Kansas with 14 points and Luke Axtell chipped in 12.
March 21, 1986 – The only game in the series to need overtime, top-seeded Kansas held off No. 5 seed Michigan State, 96-86, en route to the 1986 Final Four in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Mo.
Dec. 5, 1981 – Kansas clobbered MSU, 74-56, in the first ever meeting between these two programs in Lawrence.
Feb. 4, 1979 – A young, flashy player named Earvin “Magic” Johnson ripped off 12 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in an 85-61 Michigan State victory over Kansas in East Lansing, Mich.
Dec. 8, 1962 – In the first meeting between these two on either team’s campus, Michigan State picked up the first matchup in their home venue, 81-62.
Dec. 16, 1960 – The first ever meeting between the two college basketball powerhouses was a neutral-court meeting in, of all places, Manhattan, Kan., where Kansas outclassed the Spartans, 93-69.