Coming off a season where they made it to the national semifinals, the expectations will be high for Tom Izzo’s top-ranked Michigan State Spartans. They’ll be tested right out of the gate, as they take on No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. The Spartans went 30-7 and had the 14th highest offensive rating out of 353 teams in the nation. They are returning three starters, including their two leading scorers, as we go into the 2019-20 season. They led the nation in defensive rebounding and assists as well, signs of a functioning team that enjoys playing together.
Each and every year, we see Kentucky coming in with what seems like a brand new team. All of their talented young guards opt to head right into the NBA, where they go after one year, or in the case of PJ Washington, two. Without Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, or the aforementioned Washington, life is not going to be too easy for them. These guys are going to be seriously missed, though coach John Calipari always seems to find a way to make things work. We’ll see where they finish this season.
The current spread on the season opener favors the Spartans by three points.
Looking For A Fast Start
There is never a better challenge than to face another team inside of the top 10 to open the year, and for Michigan State, this is just what it will need to see where it stands in the early going. Two of their three leading scorers from last season are back in Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford, though Langford is sidelined until at least January with a foot injury that kept him out half of the 2018-19 season. Winston is the consensus preseason Player of the Year and will be the focal point for the Spartans. He was one of the best passing guards in the nation a season ago with his 7.5 assists a game, and we’ll see what he has in store.
Junior forward Xavier Tillman moved into the starting lineup late last season and made a major impact. He’ll be looking to as the main low-post option for the Spartans.
Wildcats Begin Another Chapter
This is going to be a very different looking team than a year ago (go figure) after seven players graduated, transferred, or took their talents right to the NBA. However, they brought in several five-star recruits who will be ready to contribute immediately. Point guard Tyrese Maxey will likely slot in as an immediate starter, along with small forward Kahlil Whitney. Kelon Brooks, another forward, will also have a chance to come in and play starter’s minutes, too. They will form the new core of the team after the likes of Herro and Washington have moved on.
The No. 2 team in the nation is ready to go toe-to-toe with Michigan State, and seeing how they perform will tell us a lot about how ready they are to contend.
Spartans Get Opening Win
It’s nice to have veteran players (upperclassmen). That will be the difference for MSU in this one as a points-assists double-double from Winston powers it to victory.
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