by Tomas Lopez
Michigan State has its sights set on the national championship in April, but for now the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic championship would be a nice appetizer to this season's main entree. The top-ranked Michigan State Spartans aim for the early season tournament title when they take on Oklahoma on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Spartans disposed of Virginia Tech on Friday as Adreian Payne scored a career-high 29 points in the Spartans' 96-77 triumph.
The Oklahoma Sooners took a much different path Friday, scoring the game's last seven points to stun Seton Hall in the final minute, 86-85. Cameron Clark scored a team-high 20 points for Oklahoma, which has scored at least 80 points in all four of its games this season. Still, the high-powered Sooners have the utmost respect for the Spartans, as coach Lon Kruger said, "Certainly, Michigan State is one of the best teams, ranked No. 1 in the country, deservedly. Always a physical ball club. Always executes things very well. (Tom Izzo's) clubs always play great."
Oklahoma Sooners at Michigan
When: 9:30 PM ET, Saturday, November 23, 2013
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TruTV
Oklahoma Sooners (4-0): Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler is a key on the boards as the Sooners start a four-guard lineup, but Spangler stepped up with 10 rebounds against Seton Hall and the 6-7 Clark added nine boards. Isaiah Cousins shot 7-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, although his teammates were just 3-of-17 from 3-point range against Seton Hall. Buddy Hield, who made the game-winning free throws, entered Friday's game averaging 18.3 points on 48.7 percent shooting but managed only 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Michigan State Spartans (5-0): Izzo had some high praise for Payne, saying after Friday's game, "I know we appreciate freshmen, but we should start to appreciate guys that stay around and get better." The senior forward/center, for example, made four 3-pointers Friday after only attempting a total of three 3-pointers during his first two seasons in East Lansing. Speaking of improving upperclassmen, junior guard Branden Dawson has had at least eight points, seven rebounds and two assists in all five of Michigan State's games.
1. Against the Pirates, the Sooners received
74.4 percent of their scoring from their four starting guards.
2. Gary Harris, considered one of the nation's top shooting guards, was 2-of-12 from 3-point range against Virginia Tech, dropping him to 6-for-29 from deep range over the last four games.
3. Michigan State only had six turnovers Friday, including a total of three by its starters in 129 combined minutes.
NCAA Basketball Prediction: Michigan State 84, Oklahoma 78.
adreian payne - branden dawson - cameron clark - isaiah cousins - lon kruger - michigan state spartans - oklahoma sooners - ryan spangler