This off-season included five teams heading overseas for preseason exhibition trips, with Michigan State and Northwestern the last two to head overseas. The Wildcats left first for Spain, playing two games so far, and are hoping that the team's young nucleus of talent and returning starters can potentially help them contend for a postseason birth. As for the Spartans, who left this past weekend for Italy, Tom Izzo and company are trying to build from last season's surprising Final Four appearance.
The Spartans left for Italy last weekend and played their first exhibition game this past Tuesday. In the team's first game they blew out Italian pro team Basket Fiorentina by a decisive 44 points in their 98-54 victory. Senior Bryn Forbes led the way with a team high 18 points. Forbes, who Izzo referred to as the team's 'summer MVP,' transferred from Cleveland State and struggled with consistency in his first season for Michigan State. While Forbes is a promising outside shooter, his inability to consistently shoot the ball kept his minutes limited at times last year. If he can get back to form in 2015-16, he'll be a dangerous perimeter weapon for a Michigan State team already high on talent.
Michigan State managed to spread the scoring around, with Denzel Valentine adding 16 points, Clark 14, Schilling 12 and Davis 10. Guards Tum Tum Nairn and Valentine combined for 15 assists (the team had 25 assists on 38 field goals) and Devonta Davis led the team with eight rebounds. The Spartans also had a good day shooting from outside, converting on 47.1% of their attempts from downtown.
All in all the only potential negative was the lack of Alvin Ellis III and Eron Harris, both of which are currently being held out for the trip due to their off-the-court transgressions. Izzo mentioned that the team was experimenting with rotations, stating that "we tried to go in with about four different lineups, that we wanted to make sure who played well together." Of course without a key player like Harris and third-year back up in Ellis, it left Izzo from being able to implement two guys that should see a considerable amount of playing time when the season begins.
Next up for State will be a three-game tournament in Trieste against national teams from Italy, Russia and Georgia. The first game will take place this Friday.
Of course the Spartans have also had some fun off the court as well:
The Wildcats, who are currently in Spain, started off their exhibition trip with a game against pro Spainish team CB Estudiantes, their first of five games. While the two teams entered the break tied at 44, the Wildcats ended up losing narrowly 82-84. Tre Demps led the Wildcats in scoring, adding 19 points, while Vic Law and Alex Olah also added 14 points. The team struggled from outside, shooting 31.2% from three while putting up an unnecessarily high 32 three point attempts.
While the first game was bit of a disappointment for Northwestern, they followed that up with a 98-50 victory over Eurocolegio Casvi, a team that previously lost to Nebraska 64-79 earlier in the month. This time sophomore Scottie Lindsey led the team with 22 points, followed by five other players reaching double digits, including freshman Aaron Falzon adding 15 points.
The WIldcats still struggled from outside, hitting only 8 of their 34 three pointers, but they embarrassed Eurocolegio Casvi on the glass on their way to outrebounding them by a 57-23 margin. While Northwestern's inability to shoot from outside could prove to be problematic, the teams performance on the glass and ability to bounce back after their first loss was a nice sight to see.
Oh, and apparently Olah isn't half bad with a soccer ball: