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Can Michigan State break the No. 1 curse?

Michigan State enters Tuesday's Champions Classic (7 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN App) ranked No. 1 in the preseason for the first time in the Tom Izzo era. The combination of a Hall of Fame coach and a wealth of returning talent makes MSU the early favorite to win what would be the school's first national championship since 2000.

Will we see the Spartans cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 6? If so, they'll have to buck recent history: Every preseason No. 1 since 2010 has failed to go wire to wire to win the national title. Here, we take a look at why this Michigan State team has a chance to end the trend.

Ousted by Cinderella

Kansas (33-3) lived up to its preseason billing during the regular season -- it was a No. 1 seed in the 2010 NCAA tournament and never fell lower than No. 3 in the national polls -- but was done in by a stunning 69-67 loss to hero Ali Farokhmanesh and No. 9-seeded Northern Iowa in the second round.

Kyrie's return not enough

Duke (32-5) received a lift when star Kyrie Irving, injured for most of his lone collegiate season, returned during the NCAA tournament. But Irving's college career ended in the Sweet 16 thanks to the Blue Devils' inability to stop Arizona's Derrick Williams, who poured in 32 points in a 93-77 Wildcats rout.

Buried by bricks

North Carolina (32-6) had a major weakness from beyond the arc -- its 23.5 3-point percentage was 337th in Division I -- and it was in the Final Four when the issue finally caught up to the Tar Heels. UNC shot 2-of-17 from 3-point range in an 80-67 national semifinal loss to Kansas.

Bad game, wrong time

Like so many on this list, Indiana (29-7) was a good team that picked the wrong time for perhaps its worst performance of the season. In a 61-50 loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, top-seeded IU shot 33% from the field and committed 17 turnovers against the Orange's zone defense.

Please exit the rollercoaster

Kentucky (29-11) underachieved for much of the season, eventually earning a disappointing No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. UK turned it on when it mattered, storming through the field to reach the national title game but committed 13 turnovers and lost to UConn (60-54) in a game the Huskies never trailed.

So close to perfection

This Kentucky group (38-1) won its first 38 games, entering the Final Four two wins away from the first undefeated season since Indiana did it in 1975-76. But the nation's best defense allowed Wisconsin to shoot 48% in a 71-64 loss, with Frank Kaminsky (20 points) leading the way.

Couldn't get a stop

Just like in 2011-12, these Tar Heels (33-7) shot the 3 poorly (26.7%) -- but that isn't what took down UNC in a national championship loss to Villanova. These Heels allowed the Wildcats to make a blistering 58.3% of their field goals -- including Kris Jenkins' legendary 3-pointer to win the game at the buzzer.

Not quite ready for prime time

Kentucky (a preseason co-No. 1 with UNC) needed a big lift from freshmen -- and didn't quite get it. Jamal Murray (20 points per game) was spectacular, but Skal Labissiere (6.6 PPG), Isaiah Briscoe (9.6 PPG) and Charles Matthews (1.7 PPG) were inconsistent rookies on this round-of-32 loser.

Youth not served

Duke (28-9) was freshman-dominated in 2016-17 -- Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Harry Giles were part of a star-studded class -- and inexperience was a factor in a second-round loss to South Carolina (88-81). The youngsters had no answer for USC senior Sindarius Thornwell (24 points).

Manhandled up front

The record will reflect that 2017-18 Duke (29-8) was a good rebounding team -- it led the nation in offensive rebound percentage (38.8). But in an 85-81 loss in the Elite Eight, Kansas had a 47-32 advantage on the glass, and that was enough to keep Coach K & Co. out of the Final Four again.

Personnel a problem

In fairness, this Kansas team (26-10) bore little resemblance to the one voted No. 1 in October. Key players Udoka Azubuike (hand surgery), Silvio De Sousa (NCAA suspension) and Lagerald Vick (left team) were all gone by March, when the Jayhawks fell to Auburn (89-75) in the second round.

Why the Spartans are preseason No. 1

MSU (32-7) reached the Final Four last season, and back are star point guard Cassius Winston (18.8 points, 7.5 assists per game) and other key pieces like big man Xavier Tillman (10.0 PPG, 7.3 rebounds per game). The Spartans are talented, deep and led by a Hall of Fame coach in Tom Izzo.

What has to go right for MSU to snap the streak

Michigan State will win a national title if two intertwined elements -- luck and health -- go its way. Guard Joshua Langford (15.0 PPG) is out until January with a foot problem, and MSU will need a healthy Langford if it wants to make a serious run. If a healthy Spartans team can peak in March, look out.

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