Izzo eager to see how freshmen fit in for Spartans

Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

East Lansing — It’s not every year Michigan State is eager to play its first basketball exhibition, but this is no ordinary year.

With seven players gone from last season’s Big Ten tournament championship team and a highly touted class of freshmen expected to have Michigan State contending again, getting a first look is a little more important to coach Tom Izzo, and that comes at 7 tonight against Northwood at Breslin Center.

“I told them I think (tonight) is a big game because exhibition games are never a big deal, or usually aren’t a big deal, but when you lose eight guys from last year’s team, it is a big deal,” Izzo said. “There will be a lot of freshmen that might turn into the tuba section (on accident), they have no idea.

“But in general it is a bigger game so they’re ready to get after it, but the truth is I’m ready to see where we are, what we will do and all those things.”

Most of the attention will be on the freshman class, led by forward Miles Bridges, who almost certainly will be in the starting lineup. Nick Ward also will see significant time at center, while guards Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston expect to get plenty of time.

Izzo plans to start Bridges with guards Lourawls Nairn, Eron Harris and Matt McQuaid as well as forward Kenny Goins. But he’ll work several combinations.

“I’ve got to figure out who plays well together and what I’ve really got to figure out is who comes off the bench the best,” Izzo said. “Sometimes it isn’t great to have a freshman starting and sometimes it’s not great to have a freshman coming off the bench.

“In general I’m trying to mix and match different people but I’ll have it written out, the things I want to see like this lineup together, I want to see this lineup together, a small lineup, our biggest lineup we can play.”

One player who won’t be on the court is senior forward Gavin Schilling, who suffered a knee injury two weeks ago. Surgery has not been scheduled, Izzo said.