No. 12 Michigan State opens Phil Knight Invitational against No. 18 Alabama


Mady Sissoko gets introduced to the crowd at Breslin ahead of Michigan State’s game against Villanova on November 18, 2022. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Luca Melloni, Sports Editor

PORTLAND, Ore. — The No. 12 Michigan State men’s basketball team opens the Phil Knight Invitational against No. 18 Alabama on Thursday, Nov. 24. This will be the first of three guaranteed games for the Spartans in Portland, Ore.  

The Thanksgiving Day matchup between Michigan State and Alabama will be the third all-time meeting between the programs. The last time the two met was at the Pearl Harbor Classic on Dec. 23, 1998. 

Current MSU assistant coach Thomas Kelley played in that game for the Spartans. 

“It will give us a good indication of where we are or where we need to get better at,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “I’m looking forward to it.” 

The Spartans are one of six teams to play at least four AP-ranked opponents in the month of November, since the 2009-10 season. They are also the only team in the country to play two top-four teams in No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 4 Kentucky. 

MSU senior forward Malik Hall was ruled out for the PKI tournament with a foot injury on Wednesday and sophomore Jaden Akins is unlikely to play as he recovers from an ankle injury. 

“Whether he’ll [Akins] play in the first or second game, I don’t know but we need him with his athletic ability to guard these three-point shooters,” Izzo said. 

On the other side, Alabama has two players who are unlikely to appear against the Spartans. St. Bonaventure graduate transfer Dom Welch is listed as questionable with a lower-body injury and Darius Miles missed the last two games with a foot injury. 

Welch transferred from St. Bonaventure and made the NIT All-Tournament team last season. He made 257 three-pointers and shot 34.7% from beyond the arc during his four years at St. Bonaventure. 

“It’s going to take a lot from my staff and a lot from my players,” Izzo said. “What an exciting time for us because we’ve put ourselves in a position where we feel we can play with a lot of people, but yet understand that we have work, we have things that we haven’t done as well.” 

MSU comes off two wins against No. 15 Kentucky at the Champions Classic and Villanova on Nov. 18 in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans sit at 3-1 overall on the season.  

Guard Tyson Walker recorded 22 points and five assists in the 73-71 win over Villanova. Walker and guard AJ Hoggard will look to have most of the workload for Thursday night’s game. 

Without Hall, the Spartans will be handicapped on both ends of the floor. They will have to guard Alabama’s five-star recruit Brandon Miller, who was a 2021 McDonald’s All-American. 

The 6-foot-9 forward from Cane Ridge high school in Tenessee most recently recorded 28 points and eight rebounds against Jacksonville State on Nov. 18. 

“He [Miller] is long, athletic, and can shoot threes,” Izzo said. “Some people compare him to a Kevin Durant.” 

Miller leads Alabama in scoring with 20.3 points per game. 

Izzo is 1-0 against the Crimson Tide in the all-time series.

The first game of the PKI tournament for MSU tips off at 10:30 p.m. EST and will air live on ESPN as well as Impact 89 FM’s Brendan Schabath and Zach Slowik will broadcast the game from the Moda Center.