The four college basketball bluebloods in the 2018 Champions Classic enter this season, as they do most seasons, with Final Four and NCAA title aspirations.
“I think this is something to get everybody excited. You’ve got four of the preseason top 10 teams,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of his No. 1-rated Jayhawks joining No. 10 Michigan State, No. 2 Kentucky and No. 4 Duke in the one-day doubleheader on Tuesday night in Indianapolis. “It’ll be great competition.”
The Jayhawks, who along with Michigan State have a 3-4 record at the ESPN-run event, which debuted in 2011, will meet the Spartans at 6 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Kentucky and Duke, teams with 4-3 records at the Classic, will tangle 30 minutes after the conclusion of the opener.
KU enters having defeated Kentucky and Duke the past two seasons at the Champions Classic. Michigan State, which is 2-0 versus KU at the event, was the last team to defeat the Jayhawks — in 2015.
“They always seem to play well against us,” Self said of the Spartans.
This will be the eighth meeting between KU and MSU in the 16-year Self era. Self’s KU teams are 3-4 versus Spartan teams, all coached by Tom Izzo.
Here’s a look back at each of the seven meetings, starting with the Champions Classic games.
Michigan State 67, Kansas 64 in Champions Classic, Nov. 13, 2012, Atlanta: Keith Appling hit a driving layup with 13.8 seconds left to up a one-point lead to three. KU’s Travis Releford missed a three-pointer at the buzzer as MSU prevailed at the Georgia Dome.
Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore scored 16 and 14 points respectively for KU. The Jayhawks led by seven points with 12 minutes left and, 59-54, with five minutes to play. MSU, which was led by Appling’s 19 points, closed on a 13-5 run. Freshman Gary Harris scored 18 points for MSU.
“We didn’t run offense down the stretch. Our spacing stunk the last seven, eight minutes,” Self said after the game.
Michigan State 79, Kansas 73 in Champions Classic, Nov. 17, 2015, Chicago: Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine scored 29 points with 12 rebounds and 12 assists for the second triple-double against KU. The Spartans’ Magic Johnson, who scored 12 points, dished 11 assists and pulled down 10 rebounds in a victory over the Jayhawks in 1979 in East Lansing, Mich., was the other player to record a triple-double versus the Jayhawks.
Valentine scored 21 points in the second half as Michigan State erased a six-point halftime deficit at the United Center.
“It’s a disappointing loss. We had the game,” Self said at the time. “I am leaving here pretty (ticked) off because I don’t think our guys, me, everybody involved in our program did as good a job as we could. If we did I think we could have pulled this one off.”
Perry Ellis had 21 points to lead the Jayhawks.
Kansas 90, Michigan State 70, in NCAA second-round game, March 19, 2017, Tulsa, Okla: Josh Jackson, who was fired up playing against childhood friend Miles Bridges, scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half. Frank Mason contributed 20 points for the Jayhawks.
Bridges wound up with 22 points, while Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, who are on the 2018-19 MSU team, finished with 13 and 10 points respectively. Lagerald Vick (seven points) and Mitch Lightfoot (no points, 1 minute) are the only current Jayhawks who played in that game. Current Spartans Cassius Winston and Kenny Goins had seven and five points respectively.
“Josh Jackson is a heck of a player,” Michigan State coach Izzo said at the time. “We wanted to beat his brains in today. I’m sure the feeling was mutual. But there’s respect, and respect means there will be a friendship when it’s over.”
Kansas 61, Michigan State 56 in Orlando Classic, Nov 30, 2014, Orlando, Fla.: Ellis scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace KU in the title game of the Orlando Classic. Cliff Alexander, who started the second half, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots while scoring six points. Svi Mykhailiuk hit 3 of 6 threes and scored 11 points.
The Jayhawks outrebounded MSU, 44-36, and held the Spartans to 32.2 percent shooting — 24.2 percent the final half.
Mason secured 10 rebounds to go with his 10 points and five assists. KU won despite an 0-for-10 shooting performance from Wayne Selden. Valentine and Travis Trice had 14 points apiece for the Spartans.
“You just can’t miss easy shots. The number of layups we missed was incredible. I’m not sure Kansas played great. I’m not sure Michigan State played great. Maybe we should be crediting both defenses. They found a way to win. Give them credit. We found a way to lose. Give us blame,” said Izzo.
“I’ll be honest, I thought we guarded them pretty well,” Self said. “I thought they guarded us pretty well. When you play Michigan State, they make you play up over the top the majority of the time. You are not going to get a lot of easy baskets (KU was 3 of 14 from three). If somebody shoots 45 percent against one of Tom’s teams, they’ve really shot the ball well. We missed some open looks. They missed some open looks. The game really starts when you play them when the ball is in the air a lot of times. I thought we did a good job on the glass.”
Michigan State 67, Kansas 62, in NCAA Midwest Regional Sweet 16, March 27, 2009, Indianapolis: Goran Suton scored 20 points and Kalin Lucas 18 for MSU. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich had 20 and 17 points respectively for KU.
Lucas scored seven points and was 5 of 5 from the line in the final 49 seconds. The Jayhawks, who won the national title the year before, led by 13 points in the first half and five points with three minutes left. Draymond Green scored seven points off the bench for MSU.
“I don’t think it’s a disappointment,” KU guard Collins said at the time. “We still exceeded what most people thought about us, but we had our own expectations in this locker room. I’d rather have gotten blown out than lose a close game.”
Michigan State 75, Kansas 62 in regular-season game, Jan. 10, 2009, East Lansing, Mich: Lucas scored 22 points for the winners. KU’s Collins and Aldrich responded with 25 and 14 points for the Jayhawks, who trailed, 37-18, at halftime, but, outscored MSU, 44-38, the final half.
Aldrich, a junior, hit 4 of 9 shots and had 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Six different Spartan players guarded him.
“They threw everybody at me,” Aldrich said. “Let’s see … there was Delvon Roe, (Idong) Ibok, Suton, (Marquise) Gray,” he said of Spartans who took turns on him. “I’m missing two. I can’t think of them all, there were so many,” added Aldrich, who also was shadowed by Green and Raymar Morgan.
Kansas 81, Michigan State 74 in regular-season game, Nov. 25, 2003, Allen Fieldhouse: Wayne Simien scored 28 points in 38 minutes and grabbed eight boards in a physical game. Simien scored 18 points the first half. Aaron Miles contributed eight of his 17 points and J.R. Giddens six points as the Jayhawks, who were playing without the foul-plagued Keith Langford, led, 38-31, at the break. Langford responded with 13 points the final half, as the Jayhawks, who saw a 17-point lead (58-41) dip to four (76-72 at 2:27), were able to hang on.
“That’s probably as much fun as I’ve had coaching during a game,” Self said at the time. “It’s the best atmosphere I’ve been a part of.”
Maurice Ager had 17 points and Alan Anderson 16 for the Spartans, whose only lead was 4-2.
The Spartans committed 24 turnovers to KU’s 18.
“Turnovers. It is almost criminal,” Izzo said. “You have to give Kansas credit for a few of them, but not 24.”