We are two games into the college basketball season; with victories over Stephen A. Austin and Canisius. If that means anything, it is that anything can happen in tonight's matchup against Michigan State. While there have been no glaring issues or particular advantages for the Wildcats so far, it is clear that certain things will have to be emphasized in order to take down Tom Izzo's squad.
Kentucky should have an overwhelming advantage down low against an undersized Michigan State team. In the Spartan's first game against Arizona, the largest player in the starting lineup was Miles Bridges, the team's small forward having to play the four spot.
Tom Izzo could start freshman power forward/center Nick Ward in the game, but even he only clocks in at 6'8" 220 lbs. Kenny Goins played mostly center in the team's opener, a 6'6" 230 lb forward. Other than that, this Michigan State team is spewing with guards.
After hardly playing in Kentucky's opener, Bam Adebayo came back against Canisius with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. The team as a whole has yet to fully dominate with their interior size yet, but that opportunity will present itself in the Champions Classic.
With no big man on Michigan State that comes close to matching Bam in size, Adebayo will have to assert himself and show the Spartans no mercy. If he plays to his fullest capabilities, Bam could have a monstrous game, and he may need to.
With big bodies in Isaac Humphries, Derek Willis, Wenyen Gabriel, and Sacha Killeya-Jones, there is no excuse for Kentucky not to completely dominate the post. Points in the paint, as well as rebounding totals, should not be close by game's end. If it is, the Cats may be in trouble.
While an obvious game plan would normally be to contain the likes of freshman phenom Miles Bridges, 21 points in the opener against Arizona, it may be wise for John Calipari to just let him have his point totals.
While Bridges dominated, the rest of the team around him failed to produce much at all. Bridges was the only Spartan to score in double-figures in their opening day loss. Matt McQuaid and Nick Ward both scored nine, Eron Harris scored seven, and nobody else put up more than five points.
Bridges could have anybody from Malik Monk to Bam Adebayo guarding him on the wing. He could also see any of the power forwards, such as Derek Willis, Wenyen Gabriel, or Isaac Humphries on him as well. Good things for Kentucky, there isn't a player on this team that cannot play defense.
Even if Bridges is held in check, Kentucky needs to make sure that nobody else has a big game. If the defense can hold the Spartans to a point total in the 60's, just like Arizona did, Kentucky should be walking out victorious.
While this Michigan State team is highlighted by freshmen, they have plenty of experience elsewhere. Guards Eron Harris and Tum-Tum Nairn Jr. are both upperclassmen who have been starters for years now. With two more sophomores in the starting lineup next to Bridges, this is far from an inexperienced group.
Like every Tim Izzo-coached team in history, this team will compete and play tough until the very end. It will be vital that Kentucky, as young as they are, plays the full 40 minutes as hard as they can. The veterans on the team like Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins very well could be the difference makers tonight.
The Champions Classic never fails to be the most entertaining day of the early college basketball season. The heavyweight match-ups do wonders for Kentucky teams every year. The Wildcats are 3-2 in the event since its integration, losing to Michigan State in 2013. Tonight, they look to take revenge.