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November 11, 2012

Kansas, Michigan State set to battle

Eight-time defending Big 12 Conference champion Kansas will face defending Big Ten Conference champion Michigan State in the second State Farm Champions Classic at the Atlanta Georgia Dome, Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN.

Duke will play Kentucky after the KU-MSU contest Tuesday. This is the second of three years for the event as KU played Kentucky in the inaugural Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden last year. The two teams would later meet for the NCAA title in New Orleans on April 2. Next year Kansas will face Duke at the United Center in Chicago in the State Farm Champions Classic. The Kansas-Michigan State contest and the State Farm Champions Classic is also part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon.

About Kansas

No. 7/7 Kansas opened the season with a 74-55 win against Southeast Missouri State in the opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Allen Fieldhouse on Nov. 9. KU shot a dismal 2-for-21 from three-point range in the game yet held the Redhawks to 29.0 percent shooting and outscored Southeast Missouri 38-20 in the paint.

Kansas returns three starters from a team that advanced to the 2012 NCAA championship game, won the school's eighth-straight Big 12 regular-season title with a 16-2 record and finished 32-7 overall. KU welcomes nine freshmen, once again making the Jayhawks one of the youngest teams in the nation for head coach Bill Self--who is in his 10th season at KU with a 270-53 record for an 83.6 winning percentage.

Three seniors comprise the returning starters in guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford and center Jeff Withey. Johnson is KU's leading returning scorer averaging 10.2 points per game in 2011-12, while Releford scored 8.5 points per contest and averaged 4.2 rebounds per outing. Last season, Withey, the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, broke the Kansas and Big 12 Conference single-season blocked shots record with 140 blocks, including an NCAA Tournament-record 31 blocked shots in six games.

Withey had his seventh career double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Southeast Missouri (11/9). Other KU regulars from last year include senior forward Kevin Young (3.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg), junior forward Justin Wesley (1.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg) and sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe (0.9 ppg, 0.7 apg). Young did not play in exhibition games or against Southeast Missouri State due to a broken right hand but returned to full contact in practice on Saturday (Nov. 10).

Tharpe played a career-high 28 minutes and had 10 points against Southeast Missouri State. Walk-on guards Niko Roberts and Christian Garrett also return and will provide depth on the perimeter for Kansas in 2012-13.

Kansas has nine freshmen on its roster this season with two - Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor - who were NCAA partial qualifiers last season. The redshirt duo practiced with the team following the fall 2011 semester. McLemore just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds against Southeast Missouri State. He also had five assists and three blocked shots against the Redhawks. Traylor had five points in the season opener.

Five of the other seven freshmen on the roster are on scholarship: guards Rio Adams and Andrew White and forwards Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas and Zach Peters. Ellis had 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds in his collegiate debut, while Adams (two points) and White (three points) also logged minutes against Southeast Missouri State. Additionally, freshmen walk-on guards Evan Manning and Tyler Self also contribute to the depth in the backcourt.


About Michigan State

Located in East Lansing, Mich., with an enrollment of 48,800, No. 14/14 Michigan State lost to Connecticut in its season opener 66-62 in the Armed Forces Classic played at Ramstein Air Base, Germany - Hangar 5 Nov. 9. The Spartans trailed by as much as 16 points in the first half yet rallied to take a second-half lead but could not hold on. Junior guard Keith Appling is Michigan State's leading returning scorer at 11.4 ppg last season. He had a team-high 17 points against UConn in the opener. Sophomore guard Branden Dawson, who averaged 8.4 ppg and 4.5 rpg last season, had a double-double versus Connecticut with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Freshman guard Gary Harris also reached double figures against UConn with 11 points, while senior center Derrick Nix (six points, 11 rebounds) and Adreian Payne (six points) rounded out MSU's starters. Freshman guard Denzel Valentine (four points) and sophomore guard Travis Trice (three points) also saw significant minutes in the season opener.

Michigan State is coached by Tom Izzo who is 412-170 in his 18th season as a head coach, all at MSU. During Tom Izzo's tenure, the Spartans have won seven Big Ten regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.


The Series

Michigan State leads Kansas 5-4 in the series that dates back to 1960. The teams last met twice during the 2008-09 season with the Spartans claiming both matchups - 75-62 on Jan. 10, 2009 in East Lansing and 67-62 in a come-from-behind effort in the 2009 NCAA Midwest Regional Sweet 16 in Indianapolis. Michigan State went on to defeat Louisville and advance to the Final Four.

Before the two 2009 battles, the last meeting had then-No. 6 Kansas defeating then-No. 3 Michigan State 81-74 on Nov. 25, 2003, in Allen Fieldhouse in Bill Self's first season at KU. Some of the more memorable games include KU's 96-86 overtime win against Michigan State in the 1986 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Sweet 16 game in Kansas City.

KU then defeated North Carolina State to advance to the Final Four in Dallas. In the next meeting, Michigan State defeated Kansas 66-54 in the Great Eight in Chicago, Ill., on Dec. 7, 1999.

Kansas vs. Ranked Foes Under Bill Self

Michigan State will be the 67th Associated Press ranked opponent Kansas will face in the nine-plus seasons under head coach Bill Self. In that span KU is 43-23 (65.2 percent) against ranked competition. That percentage has an upward trend as in the last six seasons as the Jayhawks are 33-13 (71.7 percent) versus ranked foes.


It's Academic

--In October 2012, it was announced Kansas Athletics posted its highest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) ever, bolstered by six teams, including men's basketball, that achieved perfect scores. The perfect score is measures a four-year average all student-athletes either graduated or left the program in good academic standing. Men's basketball Kansas men's basketball and men's golf joined four women's programs - Cross Country/Track, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball - with the perfect GSR.

--In June 2012, The NCAA recognized two KU teams - men's basketball and women's cross country - for achieving four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores that are among the nation's top 10 percent in their respective sports. Both sports have achieved a four-year APR score of 1,000, the highest score attainable. This is the sixth consecutive year that the men's basketball program has achieved a perfect APR.

--Kansas leads the Big 12 with 48 all-time Academic All-Big 12 selections since the inception of the conference in 1996-97. KU has 37 Academic All-Big 12 First Team selections and 11 second team selections. KU's 37 first-team selections are 16 more than Texas and Kansas State's 21 each.

--Under Bill Self, 26 of 27 four-year players have graduated from Kansas.

--In the Bill Self era, Kansas has had 25 Academic All-Big 12 selections, which is best in the Big 12, for an average of almost three per year (2.8 average). Included in the 25 are ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Cole Aldrich in 2010 and Tyrel Reed in 2011. Aldrich was the Academic All-American of the Year in 2010.

--Prior to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Kansas won the annual Inside Higher Ed's Academic Performance Tournament, which uses teams' graduation rates and academic performance to determine a winner. KU was joined in the 2012 bracket's Final Four by Texas, Lehigh and Davidson.

Up Next

Kansas will return to Allen Fieldhouse to take on Chattanooga on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. (Central) in the second game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. The game will be televised on the Jayhawk IMG Television network. KU will then play Washington State on Monday, Nov. 19, at 9 p.m. (Central) in the championship bracket of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Jayhawks will either face Texas A&M or St. Louis Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. concluding the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.


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