Spartans have issues to iron out in exhibition slate
East Lansing — There was breaking news out of Michigan State this week — basketball coach Tom Izzo said he’s pretty sure he’ll start sophomore Miles Bridges when the Spartans open exhibition play on Thursday night at Breslin Center.
OK, that’s not news at all. And Izzo was chuckling as he said it.
But as Michigan State, which is ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches’ poll, gets set to host Ferris State at 7 Thursday followed by Sunday’s exhibition against Georgia in Grand Rapids and a final tune-up with Hillsdale next Friday, there is plenty to figure out.
Namely, how does Izzo create as starting lineup and rotation for a roster that goes at least 12 deep. These three exhibitions will go a long way in determining that.
“I don’t know if experimenting will be as good as maybe getting punched in the mouth, because that team is going to come in and they’re going to play very hard,” Izzo said of Ferris State. “They’re going to play very good defensively. I’m anxious to see if we’ve improved as much defensively as I think we have.
“As I think every football coach will tell you and a lot of basketball coaches, when you get to this time of year you just need to play somebody. I think this is going to benefit us in the long run because we’re still awfully young.”
That youth has helped create the depth that wasn’t as prevalent last season, something compounded by the injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter. They’re both back this season and Izzo also will determine how much to play each in the preseason.
Schilling has been practicing without restriction while Carter should be full-go soon. However much they play, there will be plenty of moving around and shuffling of lineups.
“There’ll be a good chance that whoever is going to be starting the game will not start at halftime,” Izzo said. “I don’t mean completely, but I do want to make some changes just so I see how different people come off the bench and how different people start and who’s ready to go.”
While there will be plenty of focus on Sunday’s game against Georgia, Ferris State might be no pushover. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 9 in a preseason Division II poll by Street & Smith’s and have won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title three consecutive seasons.
Ferris State also has reached three straight NCAA Tournaments and won a school-record 28 games last season.
“In all honesty, Ferris is a very good team,” Izzo said. “They’re going to play good defense and create some problems.”
The highlight of the week, though, will be the matchup with Georgia which missed the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons but was knocked out by Michigan State in 2015.
The Bulldogs feature Bloomfield Hills native Yante Maten, who was vote SEC co-player of the year last week. As a junior, Maten scored 18.2 points a game and pulled down 6.9 rebounds.
“We’re playing a quality opponent that is as well-coached, we’re playing against a big man that averaged 18 a game in that league last year,” Izzo said. “We’re playing against a team that gave us a run a couple of years ago and I think we had a better team, so that tells you how well-coached they are. I think it’s going to benefit us.”
The game at 2 p.m. Sunday at Van Andel Arena will benefit hurricane relief efforts. Tickets are $17.50 and are available at the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place box offices, as well as online at Ticketmaster.com. There is not television or live streaming planned.
“We’re gonna talk about Georgia a lot,” said Izzo, “then watch, we’ll go and play like not very good against Ferris and that will hurt us, so this will be a good test to see if we can handle one game at a time, one practice at a time.”
Michigan State has implemented a new no-bag policy that will start with Thursday’s game and continue through the season. All bags such as purses or camera and binocular cases, are prohibited at Breslin Center and Munn Arena events. For a list of prohibited items and details for those who need medical supplies, visit gameday.msu.edu/Policies.html.