The Chicago United Center will host one of the most anticipated events in college basketball this year. The State Farm Champions Classic will bring four of the top rated teams in the Country together to play on the same court on the same night. Chances are high that one or maybe even all four of the teams participating in the Champions Classic will be making an appearance at the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four at AT&T Stadium.
The night starts off at 7:30, with No.1 ranked Kentucky meeting up with No.2 ranked Michigan State. After what should be nothing short of an awesome game, No.4 ranked Duke and No.5 ranked Kansas will go at it. It’s a night of games that Tom Izzo quotes as, “An event the whole team is proud and excited to be a part of …. all teams, the media, the fans, and the programs involved should benefit greatly from it.”
Tuesday night’s game will be the first time since 2008, a No.1 and No.2 ranked team plays each other, and the game will also mark the first time that Tom Izzo and John Calipari will go head-to-head as Head Coaches.
Calipari complained, “It’s unfair to his very inexperienced team to have to play a team with so many well-rounded veterans so early in the season.”
Although Calipari was probably joking, Izzo had no problem responding, “I’m not to proud, if they want to forfeit, I’ll take the win.”
Calipari may have a team with a lot of rookies, but those rookies consist of seven McDonald All-Americans, some of which are only planning on staying one year before heading off to the NBA draft.
But, Izzo’s team consist of NBA draft bound players as well. Including Keith Appling who is the all-time leading scorer for the Champions Classic (40 pts – 20.5 ppg) and Adreian Payne who the is leading rebounder for the event with (20 boards – 10rpg). Also, Brandon Dawson may or may not be draft bound next year, but he is the only other player who joins Appling and Payne to start for the third season in a row — add Gary Harris in with that bunch of players and you have a veteran team ready to play.
“We have two major things we need to work on,” Izzo Says. “We haven’t got the ball inside enough, although we still had some good looks. We also need to work on getting the ball to the line more often ….and them are the two major things were working on.”
Izzo also commented on the way the officials will call the game, “If the game is going to be called closely and hand-checks are going to be called around the perimeter, than that will affect both teams and could take out key players of the game.”
Transition-D and rebounding could be the two main keys to this game. If the refs let them play, it should be a fast pace game and very fun to watch. But if the refs call the game to closely, fans could be stuck watching a long drawn out game that could be won at the free-throw line.
Regardless, both teams are top-of-the-country fast pace teams, but maybe more than Kentucky, Michigan State shouldn’t have no problem playing at such a high level so early in the season. In the last three seasons, Michigan State’s first two games of the season consist of Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.
Izzo’s team will go into this event 1-1. Ranked 21st in the country last season, MSU won in a nail biter against No.7 ranked Kansas, 67-64, but as an unranked participant in the Classic the year before, they took a fall to Duke, 74-69.
If you’re a college basketball fan and enjoy the Champions Classic, than you’re in luck. NCAA has signed on to extend the event for three more seasons starting next year.