East Lansing — Michigan State started practice last week, and a few days on the court have done nothing to damper the optimism surrounding the Spartans.
The start of the season is still a few weeks away, but at media day on Wednesday, coach Tom Izzo admitted this season’s team might be one of the deepest, most talented teams he’s had in his 23 years at Michigan State.
And with that comes plenty of expectations, as Michigan State sits near the top of most preseason rankings and is one of the favorites to win the national championship.
But it’s not something the Spartans are shying away from it.
“There should be expectations, there better be expectations,” Izzo said. “There should be pressure, there better be pressure. I think the players know why they came here. I know why I’m here and have never left. I love the pressure. It means you’re in the right place and it’s not so good not to be cared about.
“If you can’t handle the pressure, then you shouldn’t come here.”
The pressure ramped up when Miles Bridges decided last spring to return for his sophomore season and was aided by the recruitment of five-star big man Jaren Jackson Jr.
It’s led to plenty of depth, as forwards Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter are back from knee injuries and join a talented sophomore class that includes Bridges, Joshua Langford, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston. And throughout the off-season, Izzo says the entire group has taken a big jump.
“It’s a team of a lot of good players,” Izzo said. “It’s a team that’s been driven all summer and fall.”
Michigan State’s first exhibition game is Oct. 26 against Ferris State. The regular season opens Nov. 10 against North Florida, followed by a matchup with Duke on Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in Chicago.