It might not be the last game of the tip-off marathon, but it's hard to argue that it isn't the main event.
For the first time since 2008, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country will square off Tuesday night when top-ranked Kentucky takes on Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic from the United Center.
Here's your mandatory pregame reading:
The first game of the century for the 2013-14 season is upon us. Let's do this thing.
7:40 - Ok, I was kind of dismissive of the "Final Four in November" talk, but that Anthem and those starting lineups were pretty awesome. Quite the scene inside the United Center already.
7:44 - Michigan State handling the moment much better in the opening minutes, as might be expected. Cats are lucky to only be down 6-0 as John Calipari calls a timeout.
7:47 - Kentucky can't even get a shot up right now. That's four turnovers in less than three minutes.
7:50 - Sparty up 10-0 after a vicious Branden Dawson fast-break dunk. The way Kentucky looks (bad) is more concerning than the actual score. Of course the two typically go hand-in-hand. Michigan State on pace to win 116-0.
8:03 - UK has settled down a little bit, but Michigan State is still getting what it wants on offense much easier than the Wildcats are. Sparty holds a 14-7 lead at the under 12. James Young has two big baskets for Kentucky.
8:08 - Gary Harris has 11 points. Kentucky has 12. Michigan State has 23.
8:11 - Get TV Teddy off my TV. Forever.
8:14 - John Calipari has said the same thing himself, but Julius Randle has got to stop relying on the spin move. It's morphing him into a turnover machine.
8:20 - Kentucky's transition defense has been abysmal. That should be area of focus No. 1 after tonight. Michigan State still rolling, 34-19.
8:30 - Gary Harris and Adreian Payne would like to discuss all that NBA Draft talk they were hearing heading into tonight. Spartans up 40-29 with 1:16 in the half.
8:32 - James Young is the one Wildcat who appears complete unafraid. He's got 15, but Kentucky cannot get a stop after a score to save their life. Michigan State's lead is 13 and they have the ball.
8:35 - Halftime: Michigan State 44, Kentucky 32. Harris with 15 and Payne with 12. Both players 5-of-7 from the field.
8:52 - First five minutes of the second half are huge for Kentucky if they want to have a shot tonight.
8:56 - UK with the first six points of the second half. Julius Randle being far more aggressive. Game on at the United Center.
8:57 - You can't overstate the importance of a healthy Branden Dawson for Michigan State. He looks like a completely different player tonight
8:59 - Thirty more for old time's sake, Heineken holiday commercial.
9:07 - Michigan State weathers the initial Wildcat run, but Kentucky is still kind of just hanging around. Everyone knows they have the players for a 12-0, 14-0 run. Sparty up 52-42.
9:09 - Harrison twins both have extremely poor body language. Those are the little things that have to change if young, talented teams are going to turn into young, talented teams with the ability to win a national championship. You never saw that from the likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and that's a large part of the reason why they were so special.
9:14 - Who would have thought that Michigan State's transition game would be its biggest asset against Kentucky. It's helped them to a 13-point lead at the under 12.
9:15 - Needs a spin-ectomy.
Julius Randle: 7 turnovers; Michigan State 6 turnovers— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 13, 2013
9:21 - Pardon the non-Champions Classic blurb, but...Treveon Graham....MASSIVE NOVEMBER ONIONS.
9:23 - No. 14 VCU 59, No. 25 Virginia 56. Cavaliers are the first ranked team to lose this season. It had to be someone. Literally, in that game, it had to be someone.
9:24 - Meanwhile, the Michigan State lead is down to seven and Adreian Payne just picked up his fourth foul in silly fashion. We might have some drama in Chicago after all.
9:27 - Let Julius Randle eat, young Wildcats. He's feasting in the post with Payne on the bench, and the lead is down to 60-57.
9:29 - Regardless of what happens in the last 8:30, what happened in the first 31:30 will benefit Kentucky greatly going forward.
9:31 - Michigan State 62, Kentucky 59 at the under 8. This is wayyy too much fun to be having on the fifth day of the season.
9:35 - UK is 11-of-25 from the free-throw line. In a three point game...yeah, that's a big deal.
9:37 - Tom Izzo decides that enough is enough and Adreian Payne checks back into the game. It's 66-64, Spartans with five minutes left.
9:39 - We are tied at 66 with 4:35 to go. Lots of credit to the young Wildcats.
9:40 - A Keith Appling trey and a steal and a lay-up by Gary Harris and just like that Michigan St. goes back up five.
9:50 - It's looking like it'll be a surprise if that five-point swing doesn't wind up being the difference tonight. Michigan State leads 76-70 with 2:20 to go.
9:56 - Michigan State up two with the ball and 25 seconds to play. Can't ask for much more from No. 1 vs. No. 2.
9:58 - Branden Dawson with a huge tip-in to probably put this one on ice. Spartans lead by four with 4.4 seconds.
10:00 - It's a final: No. 2 Michigan State 78, No. 1 Kentucky 74.
Your final box score:
|Michigan State Spartans|
|Matt Costello, F||1-4||0-0||0-1||2||2||4||0||0||0||0||4||2|
|Adreian Payne, C||5-9||1-1||4-5||1||3||4||0||0||1||1||4||15|
|Gary Harris, G||7-14||1-4||5-6||0||2||2||1||3||0||1||2||20|
|Keith Appling, G||8-14||2-4||4-4||1||5||6||7||4||0||3||3||22|
|Branden Dawson, G||4-9||0-0||0-0||2||6||8||1||4||0||1||3||8|
|Gavin Schilling, F||0-1||0-0||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||3||0|
|Alex Gauna, F||2-2||0-0||0-1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||4||4|
|Travis Trice, G||1-2||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||2|
|Denzel Valentine, G||2-8||1-2||0-0||0||1||1||5||2||1||1||4||5|
|Willie Cauley-Stein, F||2-4||0-0||1-3||3||4||7||0||0||4||1||2||5|
|Julius Randle, F||9-14||0-1||9-15||4||9||13||1||0||0||7||4||27|
|James Young, G||7-15||3-10||2-5||2||2||4||1||1||0||1||0||19|
|Aaron Harrison, G||1-7||0-5||1-2||0||2||2||1||0||0||2||2||3|
|Andrew Harrison, G||3-6||1-1||4-4||0||1||1||3||0||0||5||4||11|
|Marcus Lee, F||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Alex Poythress, F||2-6||0-2||3-4||7||5||12||0||0||3||1||2||7|
|Dakari Johnson, C||1-2||0-0||0-3||2||3||5||0||0||0||0||4||2|
|Dominique Hawkins, G||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Eleven down, one to go.