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Three Takeaways on Michigan State’s 2017-18 Schedule

Tough non-conference, easy first half of Big Ten play and a brutal February makeup the Spartans’ schedule.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Finally after months of speculation we have the complete Michigan State basketball schedule for this upcoming season. Well mostly complete — the team will still be adding one more non-conference game.

So with that we can finally take a look and analyze how this season could play out in East Lansing. It only makes things more exciting that Michigan State will enter 2017-18 as the Big Ten favorite and one of the teams on a short list to win the National Championship.

Below is the complete schedule for Michigan State.

A few weeks ago I took a look at the Spartans’ Big Ten draw but now that we have actual dates and the non-conference slate I can do a full assessment. That includes my three takeaways on this schedule — excluding the bitter disappointment of playing Michigan only once. So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on the 2017-18 Michigan State schedule.

1. Non-conference schedule is tough, but not over the top

Over the years Tom Izzo has been known for loading up his non-conference schedule with plenty of premier matchups. This year is no different, however, it appears there’s more balance to this schedule then in some previous years.

When I look at this schedule I see five true challenging matchups in non-conference play for Michigan State. That includes a neutral court game in Chicago against Duke, three games in Portland, Ore. as part of the PK80 - Phil Knight Invitational, and a home matchup against Notre Dame as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Those five games will be against teams that range from decent to elite, and will provide early season challenges.

No disrespect to the other non-conference opponents on Michigan State’s schedule but with the talent the Spartans bring back those should all be wins. So with that being said, Michigan State should be no worse than 9-4 or 10-3 outside of conference play. That’s a good worst case scenario for a team like this, and proves the schedule features solid balance.

2. Spartans should be perfect in first half of Big Ten play

It’s incredibly tough to start off conference play 9-0 in the Big Ten, but with how the Spartans’ schedule is laid out I believe it’s possible.

Let’s take a look at how the first half of the Spartans’ conference schedule looks:

  • Dec. 3 - Nebraska (HOME)
  • Dec. 5 - Rutgers (AWAY)
  • Jan. 4 - Maryland (HOME)
  • Jan. 7 - Ohio State (AWAY)
  • Jan. 10 - Rutgers (HOME)
  • Jan. 13 - Michigan (HOME)
  • Jan. 19 - Indiana (HOME)
  • Jan. 22 - Illinois (AWAY)
  • Jan. 26 - Wisconsin (HOME)

When you look at this schedule you can see where I’m coming from with this prediction. Six of the first nine games are at home, and when you’re predicted to win the league you shouldn’t lose any home games. Then you look at the three road matchups — Rutgers, Ohio State and Illinois — and you would think an improved Michigan State team would win these games as well.

Now do I really think Michigan State will run the table during this stretch? No, probably because the Big Ten is so difficult and even the bottom dwellers can upset you on the road — Ohio State and Illinois both beat Michigan State last year for instance. Plus there are some tough games at home during this stretch so it’ll still be difficult to be perfect after nine games. However, it is certainly possible and Michigan State should be favored in each of these games.

3. February will be extremely challenging

The Spartans will need to get off to a fast start in Big Ten play because the back half is much harder, including an extremely tough February slate.

There’s a good chance Michigan State will be sitting at the top of the Big Ten entering February — I see them right around 9-2 or 10-1. But once January ends the schedule becomes a lot tougher for the Spartans. Below is a tweet from myself highlighting the February slate for Izzo’s bunch.

Doesn’t that look pretty rough? Five of the Spartans’ final seven games are on the road, and I’d argue that six of those seven opponents will contend for NCAA Tournament bids. The only outlier is a home game against Illinois.

The toughest stretch in this month will be a eight-day span where Michigan State hosts Purdue (Feb. 10), three days later travels to Minnesota (Feb. 13) and then heads to Northwestern (Feb. 17). Each one of these teams are contenders for the Big Ten title so that stretch will be a true indicator of how good this team really is.

Everyone always says Izzo gets the most out of his teams late in the season so this will have to hold true for Michigan State to be crowned Big Ten champs. Of course a lot can change before February, but I’m pretty confident no one in the Big Ten has a tougher draw to end the regular season. Maybe no one in all of college basketball.