Ambitious 2016-17 Schedule Awaits Spartan Basketball

As the summer winds down and students begin to move back to campus, Michigan State University is understandably feeling a football frenzy. But before that season kicks off on Sept. 2, the men’s basketball program reminded fans that their season is not too far away either.

Michigan State released one of its most daunting men’s basketball schedules yet on Thursday. The theme of the schedule is reflective of one of head coach Tom Izzo’s favorite mantras: play anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The schedule includes 11 teams that played in the 2016 NCAA tournament and nine teams ranked in the preseason top 25 on either ESPN or CBS Sports, including the consensus preseason No. 1 Duke Blue Devils.

The Spartans will tip off their regular season Nov. 11 at the Armed Forces Classic in Hawaii against Arizona. Four days later, they will travel across the continent to New York City to take on Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The home opener will be Nov. 18 against Mississippi Valley State.

The rest of November is just as daunting. The Battle 4 Atlantis, a tournament played in the Bahamas, will be played Thanksgiving weekend. Michigan State will play against St. John’s, where ex-Spartan Marvin Clark, Jr. transferred to earlier this offseason. Should the Spartans advance in the tournament, they may face the likes of Baylor, VCU, Louisville or Wichita State.

November won’t even be complete when the Spartans face their biggest test. The biggest game of the season just may be the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against top-ranked Duke in Durham, N.C. Izzo, who is just 1-9 in his career against legendary Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, will have to pull some strings to motivate a tired Spartans squad by then.

December will bring five straight home games for Michigan State, with the Big Ten schedule kicking off at Minnesota on Dec. 27. Northwestern will travel to East Lansing for the Big Ten home opener on Dec. 30.

In a cool neutral-site setting, Izzo will get to play in one of his most desired arenas on Jan. 7 when the Spartans will travel to the historic Palestra in Philadelphia to take on Penn State.

Michigan State will face Michigan twice in the span of 10 days. The Breslin Center will host the two bitter rivals on Jan. 29, with the Crisler Center hosting on Feb. 7.

The Spartans will close their home schedule against projected Big Ten frontrunner Wisconsin on either Feb. 25 or 26, a flexed schedule similar to last season’s finale against Ohio State. The exact date will be released a few weeks in advance.

Two road contests at Illinois and Maryland will conclude the Spartans’ regular season schedule, with the Big Ten tournament beginning March 8 in Washington, D.C.

The key stretch for the Spartans has to be the first four weeks. The team will travel 13,614 miles just in month of November. Izzo’s young team will be tested early to keep energetic amid all the cross-country travel. If they can survive that month without too many blemishes, Michigan State should be set up for another Big Ten title run and a high seed in the 2017 NCAA tournament.