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Jayhawks prepare for Champions Classic

No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks face No. 14 Michigan St. in Atlanta

By Nathan Fordyce

Welcome to Atlanta.

The No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks (2-0) will face the No. 14 Michigan State Spartans (1-1) in Atlanta as part of Champions Classic Tuesday night.

Last season, State Farm started the Champions Classic that consists of Michigan State, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky with the four combining for 17 national titles.

With the Kansas Jayhawks bringing out a young roster, nine freshmen are on the squad, coach Bill Self looks at this year’s Champions Classic as a con opposed to a year ago.

“Well, I thought it was valuable because if it wasn’t the Champions Classic, it was the next game. You’ve got Georgetown and Maui and all that stuff. So last year, it was probably good for us to kind of accelerate everything,” Self said. “With this many freshmen, I wish we could go slower. Last year, we didn’t have any freshmen, so we could go faster. Our freshmen were ineligible. So I think that this year with seven of them, I wish we could go a little slower but you can’t.”

The Jayhawks will rely on seniors Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford to help keep the young kids in hand and not let their eyes get too big.

Withey is coming off a game and will need to control the paint as the Spartans bring three guards who average double figures early in the season.

Releford, Johnson and freshman Ben McLemore will have the responsibilities of guarding Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris of the Spartans. Appling will be the tough one for the Jayhawks to stop as he is an explosive guard who is a Pre-season second-team All-Big Ten selection.

It’ll be a huge test for the young Jayhawks —Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and McLemore — as they face their toughest test in the early 2012-13 season.

The game will start at 6 p.m. central time on ESPN.