The Kansas Jayhawks are prepping for their first major match-up of the season against the Michigan State Spartans, and it's going to be a game that says a lot about Bill Self's team. With so much youth on the court mixed with the early season schedule, it's hard to tell what fans will see.
Yet as much as Kansas still has to show in 2012-13, we can at least find out a bit more about their opponents. We asked the ever-gracious Chris Vannini from The Only Colors -- SB Nation's Michigan State site -- to answer some questions for us about the Spartans. Check out the interview below:
SBNKC: Can you give Kansas fans an update on the expectations for Michigan State this season?
Chris Vannini: Expectations are what they are most years: Win a Big Ten championship and get to a Final Four. The pieces are different every year, though, and with a young team this season, the hope is that the team will hit its stride by the time Big Ten season comes around.
KenPom Player of the Year Draymond Green is gone, along with many of MSU's records, so everyone else's roles have increased. Keith Appling was hot and cold in his first season as point guard last year, and he might need to take as big of a step as anyone, while Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix need to pick up the rebounding slack left by Green.
The defense and rebounding should be top-notch, as every Izzo team is, but consistent scoring threats need to emerge.
SBNKC: What did you learn from the UConn loss about the team?
CV: We learned this this team still has a lot of adjusting to do. They had a deer-in-the-headlights look early and fell behind big. They settled in and came back on the strength of their defense and rebounding, but a few dry spurts without any buckets prevented them from taking control of that game. We know scoring is going be hard to come by for this team, so falling behind early is not advised.
SBNKC: If the Spartans win, it will likely be because...?
CV: They get three big scoring outputs. It looks like Keith Appling and Branden Dawson could be the two top scorers on this team, but if a third player emerges in each game, it will go a long way. Last year, Green was the go-to guy when they needed a bucket, but they'll need multiple contributors this year.
SBNKC: If the Spartans lose, it will likely be because...?
CV: They have too many dry spells. I've mentioned it a few times, but this team is going to be prone to some droughts. Those often coincide with a lot of turnovers. Big early-season matchups with Izzo teams usually follow the same formula, which we saw in Germany. Things usually get sorted out by Big Ten season and March, but it would be nice to see them win one of these things. Can this young team do it on Tuesday? I'm not sure.