Michigan State basketball has an unbelievably tough early-season schedule. Be patient through the inevitable lumps.
Gonzaga, Kentucky, Villanova, Alabama, UConn, Oregon. No, I’m not just naming legit title contenders this season, but rather Michigan State basketball opponents in the first month of the year.
And before Michigan State takes on this murderer’s row of title contenders in November, it’s heading down to Knoxville for a scrimmage against Tennessee.
Tom Izzo likes tough non-conference schedules, but even this may be a little more than he is comfortable with.
Weathering an early-season storm isn’t going to be easy. But Izzo will figure it out and have his team even stronger because of it. That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer, however.
Facing the No. 2, No. 4, No. 16, No. 20, and No. 21 teams within the first month (not to mention the No. 11 team in a scrimmage) is going to be rough. It could end up in a 4-5 loss start to the season in November and the fanbase in complete and utter panic mode.
And that’s not even mentioning a road game on Nov. 30 for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge against Notre Dame. The Spartans could legitimately start the season 2-5.
Izzo even admitted that on Thursday during his annual preseason media day.
Notable Izzo quote from earlier today: “We could be damn good and start out 1-7, so everybody be ready for it…What’s the first thing everyone’s going to say? ‘Should have gone to the transfer portal.’ I don’t give a damn.”
— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) October 20, 2022
This is him telling the fanbase “be patient.”
Michigan State might have a really good team this year and the slow start won’t mean anything other than the fact that the Spartans will need to play with a sense of urgency in Big Ten play. Plus, in a down Big Ten year, playing the toughest games early will only make the team better by January.
This is arguably the worst the top of the Big Ten has been in years and it’s not nearly as deep as it usually is. Basically, any one of the top 5-6 teams could legitimately win the league. And Michigan State is going to be the most battle-tested team in the league when conference play starts.
When Michigan State faces Northwestern and Penn State in the beginning of December, it’ll feel like a breath of fresh air after the gauntlet that was November.
So be patient, Spartan fans, Michigan State will likely take its lumps in the Armed Forces Classic against Gonzaga, the Champions Classic against Kentucky, the Gavitt Games against Villanova, the Phil Knight Invitational against a combination of Alabama, UConn, and Oregon, and the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Notre Dame.
If Michigan State comes out of that stretch with a winning record, you can feel great about Big Ten title hopes. But don’t be discouraged if they’re 2-5 and still look good in their losses.
Michigan State will need some time to grow this year but the potential by January/February/March is high.