Michigan State completed the unintentional and unnecessary news dump Tuesday afternoon, finally releasing its non-conference schedule on the same day the Big Ten announced its conference slate and some, uh, other big and important news broke (don’t worry, I’ll stick to sports from here on out).
And while a decent chunk of the Spartans non-conference slate was already known, seeing how a team’s complete lineup of opponent’s shakes out is one of the highlights of an otherwise slow plod towards November for fans of collegiate basketball.
Five Screaming Izzo’s
-Tuesday, Nov. 6 vs. Kansas (Champions Classic)
The Champions Classic is the gift that keeps on giving.
Since its inception in 2011, the de facto college basketball kickoff event ushers in a new season in its own distinct way with a rotating doubleheader between blue-bloods Michigan State, Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky.
This year, the Spartans get the Jayhawks for the first time since 2015, which just so happens to be the last time Tom Izzo’s squad came away with a win at the marquee event.
It’s crazy to think of this game as the undercard, but so is the case when all eyes will be tuning in for the one-and-done-fest between Zion Williamson, Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett’s Duke Blue Devils and EJ Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, and Immanuel Quickley’s Kentucky Wildcats.
Fun Fact: Outside of the 2012 iteration of the Champions Classic, which took place in Atlanta, the event has never been held outside of Big Ten Country, rotating between Chicago, Indianapolis, and New York City. Feel free to @me Madison Square Garden haters.
-Saturday, Dec. 8 at Florida
While an opening game against ESPN’s top ranked 2018 BPI team (Kansas) is far from a cakewalk, I’m firmly on the ‘true road game in Gainesville is tougher’ corner when it comes to Michigan State’s non-conference schedule.
The Gatos welcome a top 20 ranked recruiting class headlined by five-star point guard Andrew Nembhard to a team that won 21 games and finished third in a really good SEC last season. Oh, and head coach Mike White welcomes back leading senior scorer Jalen Hudson to a Florida group that’s flying way too under the radar for how good it’ll be.
-Friday, Nov. 23 vs North Carolina OR Texas (Las Vegas Invitational)
So I’m not going to lie — If this game ends of being MSU-UNC it’ll have a little bit more juice than MSU-Texas. That said, Shaka Smart has something cookin’ down in the Longhorn State and once fans get past the initial letdown of missing out on another Izzo-Williams showdown, they might be in for a treat should a Texas-Michigan State match-up come to pass.
Plus, I mean, the last time North Carolina and Sparty got together on the hardwood, it didn’t exactly result in an inspiring outing.
Four Screaming Izzo’s
-Thursday, Nov. 22 vs UCLA (Las Vegas Invitational)
-Tuesday, Nov. 27 at Louisville (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
Go ahead and file both of these games under ‘fun opponent having an off-year’. Albeit two of college basketball’s most storied programs, Louisville will most likely still be looking to find its way under Chris Mack while Steve Alford will still be celebrating no longer having to deal with LaVar Ball and company.
While having to play away for the challenge and on a neutral court that’s within driving distance for UCLA could provide some interesting wrinkles, I’d still considering the Spartans healthy favorites in both games.
Three Screaming Izzo’s
-Sunday, Nov. 11 home for FGCU
I’ve awarded Florida Gulf Coast with Three Screaming Izzo’s: One for nostalgia purposes, as people don’t forget. One because billing yourself from Dunk City is straight fire and something you’d expect from the WWE. And one because since that memorable Sweet Sixteen run in 2012-’13, the Eagles have had staying power, making the postseason in every year since (Two NCAA berths, Two NIT appearances, and a CIT invite that I’m reluctantly counting).
Two Screaming Izzo’s
Maintaining integrity on the Screaming Tom Izzo’s ranking list is of the utmost importance. After carefully dissecting the numbers and painstakingly considering the merits of Michigan State’s five remaining foes, I couldn’t in good faith vault any one team to Two Screams status.
Feel free to exhale, fidelity perseveres.
One Screaming Izzo
-Wednesday, Nov. 14 home for Louisiana-Monroe
-Sunday, Nov. 18 home for Tennessee Tech
-Sunday, Dec. 16 home for Green Bay
-Friday, Dec. 21 home for Oakland
-Saturday, Dec. 29 home for Northern Illinois
My quick thoughts on Michigan State’s five remaining games: Two opponents would look more at home on an NFL schedule, one sounds like the first and middle names given to a celebrity baby, another I have unanswerable questions about its chops as an institution of technical learning, and the last boats its most famous alumnus as the voice of Homer Simpson.
If you’re able to figure out which team is what, shoot me a tweet @Eric_PSU to claim your prize.