EAST LANSING — Revenge is a dish best served cold. The Michigan State Spartans will be looking to exact revenge on the team that ended their season last year in the Round of 32, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
What better chance to gain redemption that knocking the Irish around on their home turf?
Sure this game won’t feature All-American Arike Ogunbowale, Jackie Young or Jenna Allen, but the chance for MSU to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Irish is an opportunity that is simply too good to pass up.
MSU will be travelling to the Joyce Center on Thursday to square off against Hall of Fame coach Muffett McGraw and an exceptionally young Notre Dame squad that features five new starters.
All five of the starters from last seasons NCAA tournament runner-up squad for the Irish graduated and were subsequently drafted into the WNBA. In the midst of losing so much talent is the recruitment of several talented, yet inexperienced recruits.
Through three games, sophomore Kaitlyn Gilbert is leading the Irish in scoring with 16.4 points per game. Graduate student Destinee Walker has also been solid in the backcourt for Notre Dame, as she is averaging 15.7 points per game and six rebounds.
It will make for an exciting show as these two talented young players square off against Nia Clouden and Taryn McCutcheon for MSU.
In the absence of Shay Colley, freshman Moira Joiner and Tory Ozment will also be tasked with slowing down the potent Irish offensive attack.
The Irish will be looking to get back on the winning side of things, as they were defeated by Tennessee at home this past Monday by a final of 74-63.
Suzy Merchant has changed the climate of Michigan State Basketball in her tenure here so far at MSU, however she has never been able to slay Goliath, who is Muffett McGraw.
McGraw has led the Irish to nine consecutive 30 plus win seasons in a career that has spanned over 30 years at Notre Dame and produced over 900 career wins.
The talent of Notre Dame is a far cry from the mediocre does that the Spartans have faced off against so far. This game will serve as a good measuring stick game for the Spartans, with opponents such as LSU, No. 20 Syracuse and No. 16 Florida State coming up within the next month.
Furthermore, none of these upcoming games against talented opponents will be played at Breslin, rather they will be played in the Bahamas (LSU) and on the road (FSU and Syracuse). For a team that sported a paltry 3-9 mark away from East Lansing last season, it serves them well to acclimate themselves to the rigors of conference play rather early in the season.
It is easy to draw premature conclusions from the Spartans first two wins against smaller in state colleges. The real early season verdict will be decided at The Joyce Center this Thursday at 7 p.m.
Nathan Stearns is Impact89FM’s lead women’s basketball reporter and you can follow him on Twitter @NathanStearns11