EAST LANSING — There are two things I can tell you about McNeese State basketball: they are in Division 1, and the Detroit Pistons’ President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars played on the team from 1981 to 1985. Other than those substantial, awe-inspiring tidbits, there isn’t much more I can give you.
When it comes to sports, my ego is usually to big to actually admit when I’m clueless, however, when MSU basketball head coach Tom Izzo — one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all-time — is slightly less oblivious as I (slightly meaning significantly), it doesn’t deflate my ego too much.
“Ya know, we have problems when we play teams like this because they didn’t play any exhibition games; they played two scrimmages,” Izzo said after Wednesday’s practice about his team’s opening-season opponent. “So all of a sudden, contracts read that you gotta get the preseason games — and when there’s not games — so we struggled with that a little bit.
“It seems like we’re either looking at last year’s film or high school film or transfer film, or ya know, all the different players that are in different places, it makes it a little harder, so you gotta rely on how you do. We’ve been practicing real well, today was not indicative of that, but they got a team that runs, they got a team that’s very athletic, guards are some of their strengths; I wouldn’t call it a great shooting team, but it will be a team that I think’s going to want to go up and down, so we’re going to have to continue to do that without turning the ball over, and hope today was just a day we didn’t do a very good job of it because we turned it over a lot today.”
The Spartans fell victim to turnover issues and sloppy play at times last year, and because of that, teams that weren’t necessarily the same caliber as Michigan State were sticking around late in games. While refraining from playing down to lower-level competition is something that Izzo and company focused on in the offseason, there’s a big distraction ahead that could cause the Spartans to lose focus, and that’s next Tuesday’s matchup against the first-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the Champions Classic.
Izzo has taken necessary measures to ensure that his team focuses on one game at a time, and his players have insisted that they aren’t thinking about it, but with their recent history of struggling vs. weaker nonconference opponents, they need to prove that they have matured as a unit.
“We gotta focus on what’s in front of us,” Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris said. “They’re (McNeese State) a Division 1 team as well, they’re the first team on our schedule, ya know? We gotta get started off on the right foot, get that first win of the season before we can even figure out the second game or any game after that.”
The Spartans open the season as the second-ranked team in the country, and a conference and national favorite by many experts. McNeese State is coming off a 14-17 record last season.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.