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Michigan State vs. Kentucky: What bettors need to know

Michigan State Spartans vs. Kentucky Wildcats (-3)

Tuesday's dream matchup is the earliest meeting between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in poll history. Julius Randle and the latest dream team at Kentucky got off to a strong start over the first weekend. Things get much tougher on Tuesday, when the top-ranked Wildcats host No. 2 Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic at Chicago. Randle posted a double-double in each of his first two games but will be going up against a tough, experienced front line in Adreian Payne and the Spartans.

Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris is one of the few non-freshmen in the country getting attention as a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft and did nothing to hurt that stock with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the Spartans’ season-opening win over McNeese State. Michigan State blew past that smaller team and will take on a Wildcats squad much bigger and just as fast. Even the starting backcourt for Kentucky - James Young and Aaron  and Andrew Harrison - all stand 6-6 and run the floor.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (1-0): Harris and Payne expect to get more help this season from swingman  Branden Dawson, who is fully healthy after battling back from knee surgery last season. The junior joined Payne (10 and 10) and Harris with a double-double against McNeese State, marking the first time the Spartans had three players record double-doubles in the same game since 1988. Head coach Tom Izzo came away from the opening win with positive thoughts on his team but an eye toward improving. “One thing this team does do for you, is it’s been a fun team to be around so far,” Izzo said. “Let’s face it, it’s going to get a lot, lot, lot, lot, lot tougher, and I don’t just mean Tuesday, but from here on out.”

ABOUT KENTUCKY (2-0): The biggest question for John Calipari and the Wildcats coaching staff was how fast they could get all of their talented freshmen on the same page and working the offense. A pair of easy wins over the weekend showed that Randle, at least, had made a smooth transition to the college game with 22.5 points and 14.5 rebounds against Northern Kentucky and UNC-Asheville, and he made a habit of getting to the free throw line with a total of 27 attempts. Calipari is looking forward to the  test from Michigan State. “For us, it’s just a bar of where we are right now,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

TRENDS:

* Wildcats are 6-1 ATS in their last seven vs. Big Ten.
* Spartans are 5-2 ATS in their last seven vs. Southeastern.
* Spartans are 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games following a S.U. win.

TIP-INS:


1. Kentucky leads the all-time series 12-10 but the schools have not met since Michigan State took a 94-88 double-overtime thriller in the 2005 Elite Eight.

2. Harris, Payne and Randle are three of the 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding player in the country.

3. The Spartans handed out 32 assists on 42 made field goals in their opener, led by Travis Trice’s eight.

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