NEW YORK, Sporting Alert — No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Kentucky will open the season in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
Tonight’s game between the nation’s top two programs will follow the showdown involving No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Duke at the same venue.
Tip-off time is scheduled for 9:30 pm ET and ESPN will provide live television coverage. WatchESPN.com will carry live streaming online. Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and Holly Rowe will be calling the action. WatchESPN.com | Listen Live Audio Stream | Live Stats
When this game gets underway, it will be only the second time ever that the nation’s top two programs will be opening their season against each other and the first since 1975, according to the statisticians.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index is given the Spartans the edge in tonight’s game at 59.7 percent, but Kentucky coach John Calipari is expecting a close match-up.
However, Calipari believes it’s too early for these clashes.
“This is so early in the season, I can’t predict what goes on,” Calipari told reporters Sunday. “But I wish we didn’t play this game the first game of the year.
“I’ve said it before. Why don’t we have a couple of games under our belt before we do this? But, you know, everybody agreed to do it.
“I’m anxious to see really where we are right now. I expect our guys to be anxious. I don’t know what will happen with the young kids. You just don’t. You can’t predict it.”
Meanwhile, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is looking forward to see how his pre-season No. 1 side will play this game.
“You know, I’m excited about the Champions Classic, I mean, there’s no question that there’s some injuries that made it a little more difficult in some ways,” Izzo said.
“But at the same time, what a great way to start the season- for us, for our players, for our University, program, everything.”
Michigan State will be led by senior point guard Cassius Winston, who averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists last season and Calipari thinks he’s a quality player.
“If you’re trying to keep (Winston) from scoring, you’re going to foul,” Calipari noted. “What you’re trying to do is if the kid gets 25, just make them a hard 25.”
“He’s a good player. Plays with great pace. Plays with patience. Knows what he does well. And he’ll play for all 40 minutes. You’re not going to take him out.”
Kentucky and Michigan State have met 24 times previously with the Wildcats leading the head-to-head series 13-11.
However, the Spartans have won four of the last six overall and five of the last eight games.
They are 1-1 in the Champions Classic battles.