Tuesday night's action tips with a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle at 7:30 PM (ET) when the Kentucky Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans tangle at United Center. It's the first meeting in this event between the Wildcats and Spartans, and first time the schools have gotten together on the hardwood since the Austin Regional Finals of the Big Dance in 2005.
The Spartans began the proceedings as 3 point favorites and remain there roughly 12 hours before the game. As is often the case this time of year, online sportsbooks are dragging their feet releasing a total, so keep an eye on SBR's live NCAA Basketball odds throughout the day.
Michigan State and Kentucky are both 1-1 in this event, each losing to Duke and both beating Kansas since the State Farm Champions Classic began in 2011. The 4-team swing bracket has been renewed for another three years per an announcement last week.
'Cats & Spartans Open With Impressive Tune-Ups
There was little to no drama in the games Michigan State and Kentucky played over the opening weekend, and there was no wagering action either as all three contests involving the Spartans and Wildcats failed to make the college basketball betting boards.
The Michigan State Spartans hit the gas on their season with a dominating 98-56 win over McNeese State. Gary Harris led all scorers with 20, the sophomore guard out of Indiana also grabbing 10 boards and dishing six assists. He was one of six Spartans to score in double-figures and one of three to post a double-double along with senior Adreian Payne (10 points, 10 rebounds) and junior Branden Dawson (12 & 12).
Harris was the lone MSU starter to be on the floor longer than 25 minutes as Izzo emptied his bench and got 15 players into the game.
The Kentucky Wildcats worked in two games at Rupp Arena to prime themselves for this big early test of their No. 1 status. The Wildcats did trail early in the season opener on Friday against the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs before pulling away for an 89-57 triumph. They followed that up Sunday with a 93-63 pounding of the Northern Kentucky Norse. Four freshmen started each game for the Wildcats, with Julius Randle marking his arrival at the collegiate level with a pair of double-double performances.
It's the play of sophomore forward Alex Poythress and freshman point Andrew Harrison that has impressed me the most. Harrison could be an All-American without scoring, but added 21 points in the first two games. Poythress came off the bench and is definitely the most talented sixth man in the NCAA right now.
MSU, UK Clash For 1st Time Since '05 Thriller
That 2005 NCAA tournament collision was an instant classic as Michigan State pulled off a 94-88 win in double-overtime. Kentucky forced the first overtime with a Patrick Sparks heave at the end of regulation, and had an opportunity to win it in the first OT before the Spartans scored 11 of their 13 points from the charity stripe to win it in the second OT.
Michigan State's victory in that contest was the Spartans' sixth in the last 10 meetings in the series, which Kentucky leads by a 12-10 margin.
Kentucky is obviously giving up a lot of experience to MSU, and that could prove crucial if it's close in the final few minutes. Both teams will crash the boards and play physical, and defense is likely to have the edge both ways in the first few minutes while the Spartans and Wildcats ramp up to this level of competition. I am adding the Spartans as small chalk to my NCAA Basketball picks in this one.
Make sure and check out my free college basketball pick on the Kansas-Duke matchup that follows the Spartans and Wildcats at the State Farm Champions Classic.My pick: Michigan State -3