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3 things we learned from Michigan State's 79-73 upset of Kansas

The nightcap of the 2015 Champions Classic did not go according to script.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to a monster performance from senior star Denzel Valentine, No. 13 Michigan State erased a 13-point first half deficit to take down No. 4 Kansas, 79-73, in the nightcap of the Champions Classic from the United Center in Chicago.

Valentine became the first player in the history of the five-year event to post a triple-double, notching 29 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds. His performance ruined the big night of another senior standout, Kansas' Perry Ellis, who poured in 21 points in a losing effort for the Jayhawks.

The victory moved Michigan State to 3-2 all-time in Champions Classic play, the same mark that Kentucky improved to and Duke fell to earlier in the evening. Kansas is now just 1-4 in the event.

Three things we learned

1. Denzel Valentine is unreal

The season is young, but we haven't seen a better individual performance in a spotlight game than the one Denzel Valentine gave at the United Center, and we might not see one surpass it for quite some time.

Valentine became the only Michigan State player outside of Magic Johnson to record a triple-double in a game against Kansas, scoring 29 points to go with 12 assists and 12 rebounds. Of the Spartans' 79 points, Valentine scored or assisted on an amazing 57 of them.

First impressions are a big deal when it comes to individual awards in college basketball, and no one has made a larger one during the season's first week than Valentine.

2. Michigan State is more primed for a national championship run this season than they were last season

There's certainly no guarantee that the Spartans will make it back to the Final Four for a second straight season, but if it happens, this Michigan State team should be far more equipped to do damage than last season's.

The 2015 tournament furthered the narrative about what Tom Izzo is able to do with inferior talent in the month of March. Michigan State has been to the NCAA Tournament 18 times under the guidance of Izzo, and in exactly half of those appearances it has advanced to the Elite Eight. It has won that regional final game seven times and gone on to the Final Four.

Those numbers are impressive enough, but it's how Izzo has achieved them that makes up the foundation of his reputation. Though his lone national championship came as a heavily favored No. 1 seed, Izzo is a remarkable 13-10 in the NCAA Tournament when Michigan State is the lower-seeded team. Those 13 wins are the most all-time for a head coach in the big dance. Perhaps most ridiculous of all, Izzo is 22-4 in the second game of any NCAA Tournament weekend, with all four losses coming to No. 1 seeds or eventual national champions.

Even though Izzo has been labeled as a coach who doesn't like to deviate much from his trademark style, this roster has too much versatility for him not to experiment with some different looks early in the season. Izzo expressed his openness to test combinations throughout the offseason, even mulling over putting Valentine at point if he thought going big would provide State with an advantage in a game. This group is so talented and diverse that any number of different things would probably work, The task for Izzo is simply finding the look that winds up working best.

Good teams can make Final Fours, but it typically takes great teams to win two games after getting there. Michigan State was the only good-not-great team in Indianapolis last April, and everyone knew it. This group of Spartans has the potential to pull itself up to that highest of rungs come late March/early April. Tuesday night was the first evidence of that.

3. People think Perry Ellis has played at Kanas for more than four years

Here's a section of the Perry Ellis blurb from the top 100 players feature (Ellis was No. 23) of our 2015-16 college basketball preview.

Despite being one of the most reliable and productive performers in the country for the past two seasons, Ellis is still known more for his "that guy's still playing?" status than he is as one of the best country's best college basketball players. That will change if he's leading a legitimate national championship charge from the Jayhawks in February and March.

If Ellis' first national TV moment of the new season is any indication, there may be nothing he can do to change his defining status.

These were legitimately the first six tweets that came up after Twitter searching "Perry Ellis" midway through the first half:

The birth year on Ellis' Wikipedia page also changed multiple times throughout the night.

Ellis, it should be said again, was the best player on the floor for Kansas on Tuesday night. He finished with a team-high 21 points to go with 6 rebounds.