One of the greatest aspects of college basketball is the emphasis on non-conference scheduling. As a result, we get tons of quality games, early-season tournaments, and multi-team events. None of them quite compare to the Champions Classic, though. Kicking off the season in primetime at the world’s most famous arena with four of the most historic programs in the sport? Almost impossible to beat.
This will be the fourth time Kansas Basketball has faced Michigan State in the event, losing the first two in 2012 and 2015 but winning the most recent matchup in 2018. The two teams also met outside of the Champions Classic in November 2014 and in the Round of 32 in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, with Kansas winning both games.
Kansas has gone 5-5 over the first decade of the Champions Classic, with Michigan State going 4-6—the only one of the four teams with a losing record in the event. Bill Self is 7-7 against Tom Izzo all-time.
The Jayhawks will be without starting F Jalen Wilson (11.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, .487 eFG), who is suspended for the first three games of the season after being arrested on suspicion of DUI on October 31. Wilson led Kansas in rebounding and was third on the team in scoring last season. His eventual return alongside David McCormack (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, .517 eFG) will give KU one of the truly elite frontcourts in America.
In the meantime, Kansas has a game to win against Michigan State. Here are the three biggest keys to getting it done without Jalen Wilson.