Monday, November 14, 2016

Kentucky vs Michigan State....A Preview - Champions Classic

Kentucky vs Michigan State 11/15/16 Tuesday 7PM (ESPN)
UK Leads the series 12-11
Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden, NY

Michigan State Spartans
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Enrollment: 50.543
Arena: 15,000

Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Career Record: 524-205 (71.9%) 21 seasons 
All at Michigan State

2015-16 Record: 29-6
2015-16 Conference Record: 13-5
2015-16 Postseason Record: 0-1 NCAA

2016-17 Record: 0-1
Arizona 65 Michigan State 63

Probable Starting Lineup:
Kenny Goins-F 6’6” Fr.
Lourawls Nairn Jr.-G 5’10” Soph.
Matt McQuaid—G 6’5” Fr.
Eron Harris-G-6’3” Jr.
Miles Bridges-F-6’7” Fr.

Michigan State lost 3 excellent starters in Valentine, Forbes and Costello, but they do return several key experienced players along with two McDonald’s All-American in Joshua Langford and Miles Bridges. Tom Izzo was very disappointed when the Spartans, a #2 seed in the NCAA, lost to 15 seed Middle Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA. 

This is a new season and coach Izzo has a very talented team, but it is also somewhat inexperienced…..and you can bet that this team will improve significantly as the season progresses.

Unfortunely, Michigan State lost their opening game 65-63 to a very good Arizona team. It was a heartbreaking loss with Arizona winning at the buzzer.

Coach Izzo is one of the most respected coaches in college basketball and he will have the Spartans ready to take on UK in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. 

Once again UK found itself having to replace most of it’s scoring in losing Murray, Ulis, Poythress, Labissiere and Lee. However, coach Cal once again reloaded with a #1 recruiting class and importantly, UK returns seniors Hawkins, Mulder and Willis along with sophomore Humphries. Certainly replacing Tyler Ulis, one of the greatest PG’s in UK history will not be easy, but De’Aaron Fox is a superb talent as PG and brings an incredible lighting speed to the court.

UK now has 2 wins against Stephen F. Austin and Canisius which revealed 2 major problem areas….defense and rebounding. UK was burned by both opponents as opposing players got too many easy baskets and too many open perimeter shots. The Cats must improve their defense ASAP. Also, coach Cal was very disappointed in UK being out rebounded by Stephen A. Austin and barely winning the battle of the boards by only 3 rebounds against Canisius. In addition, although it’s very early after only 2 games….there is some early concern regarding this team making outside and perimeter shots. 

For UK to have a great season they must be able to make perimeter shots as UK will likely face a lot of zone defenses and other defenses that clog the middle and take away drives to the basket. 

Kudos to Briscoe as he is playing great basketball and being a solid leader. It was good to see Bam avoid foul trouble against Canisius and play much better. What happened to Willis in the Canisius game as he seemed to not play with energy and played poor defense along with not hitting the boards. UK needs a high energy Willis!!!! 

I would like to see Mulder get more minutes as he would give UK a needed perimeter threat. In the few minutes Mulder has gotten he has hit 3-5 perimeter shots. I like Hawkins and I understand he is a solid defensive player, but he is simply not the offensive threat as Mulder. 

UK must now face a terrific opponent in Michigan State…’s a huge step up in competition. Hopefully, the Cats show solid improvement in their defense and on the boards and improve their outside shooting. I see a very close game with UK winning by 3-5 points. GO CATS!

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