There's really no better way to ring in the new college basketball season that with an onslaught of hoops games to open the year. Said games are often highlighted by various early-season tournaments, none more noteworthy than the annual Champions Classic.
The event, which takes place just days into a new regular season, has been a smashing hit since its inception in 2011. The quartet of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State have rotated playing one another each year. This year, the Spartans get a third crack in the event against Duke and both teams will be doing it in style.
It'll be the 42nd time in the history of the Associated Press rankings that the No. 1 and 2 teams are colliding in a game. Michigan State has just four wins all-time in 23 total tries against the AP top-ranked team, but they are 3-4 in seven such recent matchups. Their last victory came back in 2013 against a top-ranked Kentucky squad, also in the Champions Classic.
In that game, the Spartan backcourt led the way for a 78-74 win over the Wildcats. Sophomore Garry Harris and senior Keith Appling combined for 42 points, shooting 12/20 from the field and 9/10 from the free throw line. Sophomore Denzel Valentine recorded five points and five assists in 25 minutes of action off the bench. Two years later, he became “the guy” for MSU and finished his collegiate career as a consensus All-American and national player of the year recipient.
If you'd like to re-watch the entire game in its entirety, click here.
Tonight (7 p.m. ET on ESPN), the current crop of No. 2 Michigan State players will look to snap a losing skid against Duke. They are 0-3 when facing a top-ranked Blue Devils squad. And MSU head coach Tom Izzo is just 1-10 against the Dukies.
The Michigan State Spartans get set to begin the 2017-18 season as certainly one of if not the favorite to win the Big Ten as well as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Tom Izzo begins his 23rd season with four returning sophomores, including National Player of the Year favorite, Miles Bridges, and highly-touted recruit and potential Big Ten Freshman of the Year favorite, Jaren Jackson Jr.