Kansas-Michigan St. Preview
Deyonta Davis spent some time defending prized Kansas recruit Cheick Diallo on the United Center floor during the McDonald's All-American Game in April as Diallo earned MVP honors and led his squad to victory.
Davis and his Michigan State teammates won't have to worry about Diallo on Tuesday night when the 13th-ranked Spartans take on the No. 4 Jayhawks in the Champions Classic in Chicago, but the freshman will see plenty of minutes against a Kansas frontcourt that still possesses plenty of talent.
November injuries have become common for Michigan State, and this year is no different. Gavin Schilling is out indefinitely with a toe injury and Marvin Clark is missing time while recovering from a stress reaction in his left foot.
That leaves Tom Izzo with fewer bodies to throw at Perry Ellis, Jamari Taylor and standout freshman Carlton Bragg, a teammate of Davis' in the McDonald's game. And while Izzo feels for counterpart Bill Self regarding Diallo's eligibility issues as the NCAA investigates, he's certainly not going to complain about the talented 6-foot-9 forward missing this one.
"Hell no I don't want to see him. I mean, do you want me to lie?" Izzo said. "He's a good player, but trust me, they've got enough good players in there without him. Some of those guys have started a lot of games.
"For Bill's sake, I hope he's eligible. For my sake, he can be eligible the next game."
With Schilling and Clark out, the onus mainly falls on Davis, Matt Costello and Javon Bess to bang with Kansas' talent down low. Ellis finished with 16 points, Taylor had eight and seven rebounds and Bragg scored seven off the bench in Friday's season-opening 109-72 rout of Northern Colorado.
Davis also came off the bench in his Spartans debut and finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds - eight offensive - and five blocks in Friday's 82-55 win over Florida Atlantic, becoming just the third player in Michigan State history to begin his career with a double-double.
The 6-foot-10 forward played 21 minutes, and there's a good chance he'll see more against the Jayhawks if he can stay out of foul trouble.
"I'm looking at it as we have a negative that we have two potential starters out," Izzo said. "(But) we have a positive that we have one of our best freshmen in a lot of years - one of our best freshmen big men in a long, long time - is going to get some valuable experience against some of the best at that position."
Michigan State will combat Kansas' talent in the paint with its depth on the perimeter. Denzel Valentine had 13 points, eight rebounds and nine assists against FAU while fellow senior Bryn Forbes scored 12.
West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, who sat out last season after averaging 17.2 points in 2013-14, will be counted on for scoring as well. However, Izzo said Lourawls Nairn is dealing with plantar fasciitis that could hinder him against Kansas' guards.
Wayne Selden scored 15 points and fellow junior Frank Mason hit all three of his 3-point attempts against Northern Colorado. Brannen Greene had one of the best games of his career, going 6 of 6 from the field - 5 of 5 from long range - and scoring 18 points off the bench.
''No disrespect, but it was Northern Colorado,'' Greene said. ''We should be more athletic than them. We got Michigan State coming up and that'll be an honest, real good test for us.''
Izzo is 6-5 all-time against Self, including a victory in the 2012 Champions Classic. Self won the last meeting, though, as Ellis scored 17 points in Kansas' 61-56 victory in the championship game of the Orlando Classic on Nov. 30.