Advertisement

Getting to know No. 13 Michigan State before the Champions Classic

Advertisement

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo watches the action during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Illinois, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. Illinois won 59-54. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo watches the action during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Illinois, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. Illinois won 59-54. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The college basketball season is less than a week old, but thanks to the Champions Classic, in Chicago, fans don’t have to wait any longer to see some of the nation’s top programs going head to head.

Bill Self’s No. 4-ranked Kansas Jayhawks take on Tom Izzo’s No. 13-ranked Michigan State Spartans Tuesday (approximately 9 p.m., on ESPN) at United Center, right after No. 2 Kentucky takes on No. 5 Duke.

Self and Izzo, of course, are plenty familiar with each other. Izzo has a 6-5 edge facing Self (1-0 when Self was at Tulsa, 2-3 when Self coached Illinois and 3-2 since Self took over at KU).

Michigan State has won three of the last four matchups with the Jayhawks, who beat the Spartans in Orlando last Thanksgiving weekend, at the Orlando Classic.

Kansas ran into little resistance in its season-opening, 109-72 thumping of Northern Colorado on Friday, but points won’t be nearly as easy to come by in game No. 2. Michigan State, which opened with an 82-55 home victory over Florida Atlantic limited FAU to 33.9% shooting and blocked 12 shots.

As usual, Izzo’s team dominated the glass in its debut. FAU only secured 5 offensive rebounds on its 39 missed field goals, and MSU snatched 35 defensive rebounds (53 total).

“We did enough work, but we know we’re nowhere near where we’re going to be,” Izzo said afterward, “and yet I think there were enough bright spots. At times, we showed we could be pretty good.”

Considering Izzo has taken MSU to seven Final Fours, opponents can always expect a fight out of the Spartans. And that’s exactly what a KU team with Final Four aspirations of its own will get Tuesday night.

Here are the Spartans the Jayhawks should be worried about headed into the early-season showdown.

SPARTANS STARTERS

No. 45: G Denzel Valentine | 6-5, 220, sr.

Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine (45) drives past Marquette Golden forward Steve Taylor Jr. (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Kissimmee, Florida. MSU on Sunday will face Kansas in the championship game of the Orlando Classic.

Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine (45) drives past Marquette Golden forward Steve Taylor Jr. (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Kissimmee, Florida. MSU on Sunday will face Kansas in the championship game of the Orlando Classic.

  • Easily the most complete player this season for the Fightin’ Izzos, senior guard Denzel Valentine led MSU with nine assists in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. Oh, yeah. he scored 13 points and pulled down 8 rebounds, too.

  • Valentine is the leading returning scorer (14.5 points), rebounder (6.3) and passer (4.3 assists) from MSU’s 2015 Final Four team.

  • One of four unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team, Valentine messed around and got a triple-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in MSU’s first exhibition, against Northern Michigan.

  • Valentine is a threat behind the 3-point line, too. He made 102 from deep last season, connecting on 41.6%.

  • Valentine might not seem like one of Izzo’s all-time great players (yet), but with 114 career games played at MSU, Valentine is on pace to become the program’s all-time leader in games played — 32 more will do it….

  • … He also needs 46 assists and 184 rebounds to become the only Spartan in program history to finish in the top 10 in both categories. Plus, Valentine’s 163 career 3-pointers currently ranks him 7th in school history.

  • While the Jayhawks spent part of their summer winning the World University Games, Valentine played for USA at the Pan American Games, where the U.S. won bronze.

No. 11: G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. | 5-10, 175, soph.

Michigan State's Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) passes as he drives between Ohio State's Amir Williams, left, and Jae'Sean Tate, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament in Chicago, Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Michigan State's Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) passes as he drives between Ohio State's Amir Williams, left, and Jae'Sean Tate, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament in Chicago, Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Sophomore point guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn only averaged 2.2 points, 2.4 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 19.4 minutes as a freshman, but is bound to play a much larger role for the Spartans in his second season.

  • MSU went 13-4 when Nairn started last year. His addition to the starting unit helped in the NCAA Tournament, as the Spartans advanced to the national semifinals.

  • Not your typical college basketball guard, Nairn is more of a driver than shooter. He only took 10 3-pointers in 758 minutes as a freshman, making 3.

  • Nairn scored 8 points for his career high at Rutgers, as a freshman. He scored 7 points and passed out 4 assists (with 2 turnovers) vs. FAU on Friday.

No. 5: G Bryn Forbes | 6-3, 190, sr.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas, left, and forward Jamari Traylor (31) defend against a drive by Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes (5) during the second half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas, left, and forward Jamari Traylor (31) defend against a drive by Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes (5) during the second half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

  • Likely Michigan State’s most dangerous 3-point shooter, senior guard Bryn Forbes drained 3 of his 4 attempts in the season opener, giving him at least 1 made 3-pointer in 93 of his 104 career appearances in a MSU uniform.

  • If you include the Spartans’ two exhibition games, Forbes has made 14-of-21 3-pointers in three appearances (two don’t count) this season.

  • Forbes started 24 games last season, and averaged 8.5 points in 26.2 minutes.

  • By hitting 42.7% from 3-point range last season, Forbes ranked fourth in the Big Ten.

  • In his career, the senior has knocked down 212 of his 512 3-point tries (41.4%).

No. 2: F Javon Bess | 6-5, 220, soph.

Michigan State's Javon Bess, center, reaches for a rebound over Ferris State's Peter Firlik (32) and Michigan State's Kyle Ahrens (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Michigan State's Javon Bess, center, reaches for a rebound over Ferris State's Peter Firlik (32) and Michigan State's Kyle Ahrens (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

  • An injury to his right foot shortened Javon Bess’ freshman season, when he only got to play in 12 games.

  • Bess averaged 2.7 points in 12.3 minutes while trying to acclimate himself to the college game.

  • Izzo thought enough of Bess to start him in three Big Ten games — vs. Maryland, Penn State and Nebraska — before the injury derailed the forward’s freshman season. Bess averaged 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 18.3 minutes in those starts.

  • With 9 points against FAU, Bess matched his career high.

No. 10: F Matt Costello | 6-9, 245, sr.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) goes up for a shot against Michigan State forward Matt Costello (10) and forward Branden Dawson (22) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) goes up for a shot against Michigan State forward Matt Costello (10) and forward Branden Dawson (22) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

  • More of a shot-blocker and rebounder throughout his Michigan State career, senior big man Matt Costello led Sparty with 15 points in the season opener against Florida Atlantic. That was just 2 shy of his career high of 17.

  • With 2 more blocks, Costello (105 career denials) will move into No. 5 in the Michigan State record books. If Costello can block 38 more before the season ends (he blocked 48 last season), he’ll sit alone at the top, and surpass Branden Dawson’s mark of 142.

  • Costello only started six games last season, and averaged 7.0 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20.4 minutes.

  • An effective scorer inside, Costello made 59.8% of his shots as a sophomore and 57.9% of his field goals last year.

SPARTANS BENCH

No. 23: F Deyonta Davis | 6-10, 240, fr.

None by Mike Mulholland

  • A big man with the skills and toughness that just scream Michigan State basketball, freshman forward Deyonta Davis became the third Spartan in team history to post a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) in his college debut, vs. FAU.

  • When KU gets the ball inside, it likely will have to worry more about Davis than Costello. The freshman swatted away five blocks in his first game with MSU.

  • Davis’ monster wingspan of 7 feet, 2 and 1/4 inches, and max vertical jump reach of 12 feet and 1/2 inches make him an absolute terror around the rim.

No. 14: G Eron Harris | 6-3, 185, jr.

West Virginia guard Eron Harris pumps his fist after hitting a three against the Jayhawks during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia guard Eron Harris pumps his fist after hitting a three against the Jayhawks during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • If the name Eron Harris sounds familiar to Kansas basketball fans, it’s not because the junior guard played well in recent MSU-KU meetings. This is Harris’ first season with the Spartans after transferring from West Virginia.

  • Another 3-point threat for Michigan State, in his last season at West Virginia, Harris scored 17 points and made 3 of 9 from downtown in a loss at Allen Fieldhouse (in 2014). Later that season, he torched KU for 28 points and nailed 5 of 7 from deep in win at WVU.

  • In that 2013-14 season, his most recent after sitting out last year as a transfer, Harris started 32 games for West Virginia, averaging 17.2 points per game (fourth in the Big 12).

  • Harris ranked third in the Big 12 in both 3-point shooting (42.2%) and free-throw percentage (85.6%) before transferring.

Comments

Kent Richardson 6 years, 7 months ago

Thanks Benton.

We match up even in three point shooting.

I would say we lag in rebounding and names (come on Lourawls, Tum-Tum)?

Their difference makers are Valentine and Deyonta Davis it seems. Can Carlton (Braggtime) and Ellis score inside?

Defense is a question mark in my mind, Will Selden or someone be able to slow down lover boy? And Mickelson will need to swat a few gnats in the lane.

Push the pace and hope the new rules hurt typical Izzo rough housing.

First real game and question marks every where.

Plenty to worry about and my head gives MSU the edge. 80-73. We flop inside. Please be wrong.

Benton Smith 6 years, 7 months ago

Lourawls Tum Tum Nairn Jr.= the greatest name. Maybe ever.

I think Davis will have the kind of impact around the rim that KU hopes Cheick Diallo will have (if he's ever cleared to play), altering/blocking shots and cleaning up on the glass.

I'm curious to see who guards Valentine the most. My guess is it'll be Selden.

Eliott Reeder 6 years, 7 months ago

Really guys?!? Sviatoslav, Devonte, Lagerald, Carlton, Jamari, Cheick... we've got some pretty damn cool/ odd names on our roster. If anything, it's a push! ;)

Kent Richardson 6 years, 7 months ago

Lol

Lou Rawls was from Chicago and wasn't very tall. He was a super smooth baritone who was immortalized in Sweet Soul Music by Spider Turner and Arthur Conley.

Jared Reeves 6 years, 7 months ago

If only 2 of their top 7 players are taller than 6' 5'', then I would think foul trouble will give us a big advantage on the inside. Let's just hope we can move our feet and stop their guards from penetrating.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.