The last two meetings between Michigan State and Kansas have been matchups between teams ranked in the top 10.
That won’t be the case Saturday as the Jayhawks are unranked, but this game against the No. 8 Spartans still looms large for both clubs.
The Spartans (12-2) consider this a difficult non-conference matchup, regardless of whether Kansas (11-3) is in the current poll.
“You play a team like Kansas - that’s a storied program and that’s what our fans want and I want,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Kansas has won four of seven meetings all-time between these programs, although the Spartans have taken both previous matchups in East Lansing - the most recent of which occurred in 1979. These teams have never met at the Breslin Center.
Each of the last two games between Kansas and Michigan State have pitted a pair of top 10 teams. The most recent was an 81-74 home win for the then-No. 6 Jayhawks over the then-No. 3 Spartans.
This season’s Michigan State team is certainly playing like it plans to stay highly ranked. The Spartans have won eight straight, including a 67-58 victory at home over Ohio State on Wednesday. Kalin Lucas scored 20 points and Raymar Morgan added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State, which made 8 of 17 3-point attempts.
After the game, Izzo expressed concern about his team’s possible fatigue. The Spartans - who had a three-game road trip prior to facing the Buckeyes - will be playing on their home court Saturday for only the sixth time in 15 games. They’ll need all the energy they can muster against a Kansas team that has exceeded 90 points in each of its last two games.
“If we’re not ready to run in that game, we’re going to get run out of the gym because they’re very athletic,” Izzo said. “We have to get freshened up.”
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, fell out of the rankings last month but have recovered and are now looking for their fourth straight win. The marquee victory of their current streak was a 92-85 home win Jan. 3 over then-No. 14 Tennessee, and they beat Siena 91-84 on Tuesday.
“We have some confidence right now,” said sophomore center Cole Aldrich, who scored a career-high 24 points against Siena and added 13 rebounds. “I think it’s going to be a really tough team at Michigan State. The Izzo fans are going to be pretty crazy, but we’re excited to get out there and play.”
Leading scorer Sherron Collins (17.6 points per game) added 18 points Tuesday for Kansas, which will seek a better result on the road. The Jayhawks dropped their only true road game of the season thus far, 84-67 at Arizona on Dec. 23, and are 1-1 at neutral sites.