Highly touted Spartans make debut at Michigan State Madness

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — In front of a jam-packed Breslin Center, Michigan State men’s basketball kicked off their much-hyped 2017-18 season Friday night at Michigan State Madness.

With an the entrance line stretching south to Shaw Lane and autograph lines wrapping halfway around the arena, the sense among fans was certainly one of excitement. Considering how superstar Miles Bridges and much of last year’s NCAA tournament team returns to campus this season, the Spartans have earned their national attention, and Spartan fans came out in droves to see the much-hyped team.

The players made their entrances to the arena following the women’s team. Entering with nicknames, such as Joshua “Ace Boogie” Langford and Matt “Matty Ice” McQuaid, they danced to a variety of music genres and gathered on center court.

Over the years, coach Tom Izzo has stolen the show with his creative—and sometimes outlandish—entrances. However, he has taken a more laid back approach in the past few years, and this year was no different. Izzo made his entrance with his family standing next to a 10-foot tall caricature of himself.

Izzo then spoke to what he called an “overflow crowd” about his team, standing behind him in t-shirts and sweats. Before his breakdown of his team’s high hopes for the year, he made sure to slip in a jab at the squad.

“I feel really good about my basketball team this year, but the reason I feel really good is [because]other than Nick (Ward) and Cassius (Winston), I’ve got a bunch of guys who can’t dance,” Izzo joked. “So they must be working on their game every day.”

He then got serious and alluded to their early-season matchup with Duke, part of what should be a historic night at the Champions Classic. In the recently released coaches’ poll, Duke was ranked No. 1, while the Spartans came in a No. 2. The other matchup that day in Chicago will feature No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Kentucky.

The players then suited up for a 20-minute scrimmage once the women’s team completed a 10-minute scrimmage of their own. The Green team, led by Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, pulled away late from Nick Ward’s White team, winning 44-40.

Bridges threw down a breakaway dunk just 20 seconds into the scrimmage to remind the fans of his return. He threw down two more dunks and tacked on a three-pointer. Jackson’s length and agility were on full display in his first action at the Breslin, throwing down three dunks and hitting two three’s, including the go-ahead three from the left wing with 23 seconds left.

Ward was a one-man wrecking ball for the White team, throwing down seven dunks and running in transition with point guard Tum Tum Nairn.

To Spartan fans’ pleasure–not to mention Izzo’s–nobody appeared to go down with an injury in the quick action.

With his team sporting a lofty preseason ranking, Izzo has claimed throughout the past few weeks that he welcomes the pressure on his team. To him, it only helps his team keep their eyes on the prize.

“This year, we’re going to try our hardest to live up to the expectations that everybody’s had,” Izzo said. “That’s to put another banner in the sky.”

The Spartans begin their season with an exhibition matchup Thursday against Ferris State. Tipoff at the Breslin Center is set for 7:00 p.m.

New digs

The Breslin Center was a hotbed of activity Friday. The brand-new Gilbert Pavilion and Tom Izzo Hall of History were officially unveiled to hundreds of honored guests during the afternoon. The ceremony featured speeches from coaches Suzy Merchant and Tom Izzo, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, athletic director Mark Hollis, deputy athletics director Greg Ianni, Trustee Brian Breslin, and prominent donors, including Bob Skandalaris and Dan Gilbert, CEO of Quicken Loans.

Gilbert’s bid to bring the second Amazon headquarters to Detroit was showcased as the university opened the new space. A promotional video was shown to the crowd, and several university officials complemented Gilbert’s bid as having a major impact on the entire state.

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