As the #2 Michigan State Spartans prepare to meet the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in this Tuesday's Champions Classic in Chicago, these two programs couldn't go about their success more differently.
-Tom Izzo takes an "anybody, any place, any time" mentality when it comes to scheduling, even though his teams are notorious slow starters.
-John Calipari effortlessly recruits a new class of "one and done" players every year, but is complaining about having to face a veteran team like the Spartans this early in the season.
-Tom Izzo backed off of blue chip recruits like Cliff Alexander, James Young and Tyler Ulis when middlemen and other shady elements start to emerge.
-John Calipari embraces shady figures like "World Wide Wes" and ignored red flags on recruits like Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose and Enes Kanter, only to claim ignorance when they were ultimately declared ineligible by the NCAA.
-Tom Izzo utilized a state law in occasionally using state owned planes while on recruiting trips, yet that use resulted in a FAA investigation (that turned out to be completely legal).
-John Calipari once recruited Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne by landing a helicopter on his high school football field, yet nobody even raised an eyebrow.Hell, even their campuses are polar opposites.
Michigan State tries to sell recruits on one of the most beautiful and lively campuses in the nation, while Kentucky somehow convinces blue chip prospects to come to the horse, chain restaurant, and jean short capital of the world.
And before the Wildcat fans start screaming at me for being a damn Yankee, I know all of these things...I actually live in Lexington, having attended both MSU and UK.
I've sat next to Demarcus Cousins as he got a two hour lap dance at Camelot West.
I've been touched by Tim Couch's Playboy Playmate wife as she sat next to me at Drake's.
Hell, I've even bought Kenny "Sky" Walker a drink at Camelot East as he gushed about how Kentucky dropped the ball by not pursuing Tom Izzo harder to become their coach when they had the chance (sorry Kenny, UK never had a chance with Izzo).
Ultimately, Tuesday's game means nothing in the grand scheme of this season aside from pride and a potential boost to each school's national reputation.
And while the Spartans certainly aren't lacking in pride, they could use some love when it comes to the national media, who mistakenly thinks that the Spartans are a grind it out half court offensive team.
On the other hand, UK's team is certainly talented, but they're very young, and an early season victory over the #2 ranked team in the country would be a major boost to their egos and give them confidence going forward.
So how does this game play out?
First off, Michigan State will dispel the perception that they're a slow paced, half court based team. Look for the Spartans to run the young Wildcats out of the United Center on Tuesday.
|If the 2013-2014 Kentucky basketball team is nicknamed the "Kiddie Cats," does that make the 2012-2013 Kentucky team the "NITtie Cats?"|
Julius Randle has been a beast thus far for Kentucky, but also has not been matched up with the size or athleticism of someone like Michigan State's Adrieon Payne.
Payne is also the key to Michigan State's offense, presenting match-up problems of his own with a pick and pop game that he can also move down low into the post.
This game probably comes down to foul trouble and how the new extra stringent hand-check rules will be enforced, as Payne demonstrated a propensity to get into foul trouble at the Junior Olympics this summer, in which less lenient International Rules were enforced.
In the event that Payne does get in foul trouble, Michigan State does have some bodies to throw at Randle, but not anybody who can match him in terms of athleticism.
Likewise, Kentucky can't afford to lose Randle, as Willie Cauley-Stein is perhaps the most overrated player in all of America. Maybe this guy convinces some crappy NBA team to draft him in the first round, but I doubt he ever plays any meaningful minutes outside of the D-League.
In the back court, Kentucky's heralded "Harrison Twins" seem overrated, particularly Aaron at shooting guard. Meanwhile, Michigan State has potentially the best back court in the nation with Sr. Keith Appling at the point and All-American Gary Harris at shooting guard.
Throw in Michigan State's versatility at the hybrid "three" spot with Denzel Valentine and Brandon Dawson against an underachieving Alex Poythress and super raw James Young, and Michigan State should win this game going away.
Prediction: Michigan State 73 - Kentucky 59