By Kevin Raju
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Held once a year, Michigan State Madness is a special event that rewards Spartan basketball fans with glimpses at the men’s and women’s basketball teams for the upcoming season.
Reeling off a second-round loss to Syracuse in the 2018 NCAA tournament, the men’s basketball team looks to recover and do better this season. The Breslin Center doors opened Friday night to excited fans, who scored autographs from players and head coaches while finding their seats for the show.
Like any other year, Midnight Madness is exciting with entrances, music and scrimmages showcasing players’ abilities. This year, several Spartan alumni of the basketball program sent their wishes towards the men’s team with their hopes for a good season as well as advice to keep them positive.
“It’s nice to come in without expectations,” said MSU senior Kyleigh Buckley.“Then you’re not as disappointed.”
Last year, with star freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and the return of Miles Bridges, many fans and analysts expected the team to win the national championship. While winning the B1G regular season was impressive, it was not at the level of a national championship.
“I haven’t been here since March,” Buckley said. “It’s just exciting to be back. The Breslin is my favorite place.”
Whether it’s an exhibition game, non-conference or conference game, fans enjoy coming to the game and cheering on the Spartans to as many wins as they can. Every year is exciting as fans watch blocks, passes and last-second shots change the pace of the game.
“I haven’t been here since March. It’s just exciting to be back. The Breslin is my favorite place.”
“Being around people with a common bond of cheering for your team is something that I really enjoy,” MSU freshman John Volesky said.
Volesky is looking forward to joining the Izzone, the Spartans’ student section, and cheering on the team going forward in the season. Last year, games against a No. 5 Notre Dame and a No. 3 Purdue brought out the excitement of the Izzone as well as other fans. Expect nothing less than an extremely loud Izzone this season.
“We’re gonna have to find a leader to carry us to the level we wanna be at,” said Volesky.
Last year, Miles Bridges and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. functioned as the leaders of the team, keeping them together. This year, other players will need to step up in both leadership and playing roles to keep the season’s expectations high.
The freshman class for the men’s basketball team has five players, but none of them are as highly touted as Bridges (2016) or Jackson Jr. (2017). However, there is potential for the five of them to become talented players that could propel this team forward through the season and into the tournament. The fact that there is no “star” player is what has fans believing in this team even more.
Last year, top Spartan contributors to the board included Bridges, Jackson, and Cassius Winston. However, Joshua Langford has yet to contribute consistently to the Spartan offense. Touted as a 5-star recruit, Langford must make his mark now to be noticed for anyone to consider him as a potential draft candidate.
“I’d say he was really hot during non-conference, but then when he got to the Big Ten, he was a little off and on,” said MSU fan Evan Mulder.
The women’s basketball program also returns to action this season as lone senior Jenna Allen looks to be a leader for this team coming off a third round loss to South Dakota in the 2018 WNIT. As this is her final season, Jenna will be looking to making her mark on the program for years to come.
“I’m hoping that they have an awesome season,” MSU fan Ron Mack said. “No injuries, that’s the main thing.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams have dealt with injuries before. Injuries can stop the team short of achieving their desired goals. For a productive season, the women’s basketball team needs to remain healthy and focused.
“I follow them pretty good every season,” said Mack. “I come here every year and I like to meet them in person.”
Michigan State Madness brings the opportunity for fans to to meet their favorite players, get autographs and take pictures with them. Not only does it bring joy to the fans, but it shows players that there are fans that believe in them and their ability to go far during the season.
This season will be a different season compared to previous seasons. The expectations are lowered. Fans are asking themselves if the Spartans will go far in the tournament, and are wondering about whether several players can step up in the game. Regardless, as seen at Michigan State Madness, Spartan fans are looking forward to another exciting basketball season filled with emotions flying through the air.