INDIANAPOLIS — The ending was shaky, but all told, Kansas looked like the part of a No. 1-ranked team inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.
The Jayhawks opened their season with a 92-87 win over No. 10 Michigan State at the Champions Classic. In the buildup to the 2018-19 college hoops campaign, Kansas had grown into the most popular pick for the top spot in the sport. Through one game, all looks fairly well with Bill Self’s team. Kansas was effective and diverse from the onset against a Michigan State squad not short on length, experience or shooting.
And welcome to college basketball, Quentin Grimes.
The Jayhawks’ freshman shooting guard put on one of the better freshman performances in the history of the Champions Classic with his 21-point performance on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Grimes led KU in scoring.
Between Grimes’ shooting, Udoka Azubuike’s borderline-unstoppable prowess around the rim and Dedric Lawson’s solid showing in his first game as a Kansas player, things graded out fairly well. Lawson, a playmaking power forward who averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in his first two seasons at Memphis, finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.
And you know what? It was a B-level game for him. That’s what makes Kansas’ outlook scary for most other teams in college basketball.
Remember, KU’s coming off a Final Four appearance, lost three of its five starters from that team (including a consensus First Team All-American in Devonte’ Graham) and already looks like it will be even better this season. Kansas appears to have a lot — if not all — of the requisite parts to win a national title.
For Michigan State, there’s a lot to work on … but this wasn’t a flop. A methodic rally late put MSU within three with less than 20 seconds remaining. The Spartans are again the preseason pick to be the best team in the Big Ten. If they’re to live up to that, they’ll need more consistent 3-point shooting from senior Matt McQuaid. The good news is Josh Langford’s 18-point night. Langford, who might become a top-30 defender in college basketball this season, was confident and aggressive in his shot selection.
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