Both schools entered into the contest with significant on-court accomplishments. Combined, both schools had won nine national championships (seven for Kentucky, two for Michigan State) and made 18 Final Four appearances (13 for Kentucky, five for Michigan State). Michigan State and Kentucky had met 20 times previously with Kentucky holding a 11–9 advantage. Michigan State had defeated Kentucky 71–67 the previous year at Rupp Arena.
The basketball court for the game was moved from Michigan State's Breslin Center and reassembled on the 50 yard line of Ford Field, giving the promotional title "Basketbowl: Hoops on the 50!" This is the same court that Michigan State won the 2000 NCAA Championship on in Indianapolis. In addition, the entire court was raised off the field by a custom stage deck installed by SGA Production Staging, Inc. to improve sight lines for those sitting in the upper bowl of the stadium.