Spartans like their mix as Midnight Madness looms

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Cassius Winston

East Lansing — Michigan State’s version of Midnight Madness is Friday night, and while the Spartans have been on the practice floor since last week, it still offers a sort of unofficial beginning to the basketball season.

Michigan State Madness begins at 9:30 p.m. on Friday at Breslin Center, a kickoff to the homecoming weekend and a chance for the fans to get a glimpse at this season’s team.

“I’m excited. It’s that time of year,” junior guard Cassius Winston said. “I know it’s gonna be a show. It’s a chance to meet the guys and to put on a show.”

A show is exactly what the event has been over the years, often ending with some sort of grand entrance from Tom Izzo. He’s been dressed up as a member of the rock band KISS, he’s ridden onto the court in race cars and motorcycles and even been “shot” out of a cannon.

What’s in store this time around was, as usual, a well-kept secret around Breslin Center on Tuesday. But even with an earlier start than usual on the calendar, Izzo is hoping for a big night.

“I like the fact that we moved it up a little bit, but I’m still excited about Midnight Madness,” Izzo said. “I don’t want to take anything away from high school football, you know how much I love that. So we moved it back a little bit. Some reasons were beyond control, but the starting date does seem more anticlimactic now because we’re allowed so much time in the summer.

“But these guys are jacked for it and it’s still a pretty good tradition and hopefully we’ll continue it.”

The group of players the public sees on Friday will have a different look than it did last season. Gone are Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. Both were NBA Lottery picks in June.

And while Michigan State brought in five freshmen this season, there is a different feel around the team with two superstars departed.

“Yeah, I think it is definitely a different feel,” senior Matt McQuaid said. “There are more veterans but we’ve got a lot more young guys, too, so there’s a lot of responsibility teaching them quicker, dragging them along quicker the same way Denzel (Valentine) and Tum Tum (Nairn) did with us.”

It also forces players to become more accountable on the court.

“With Miles and Jaren it was more like we depended on them,” sophomore forward Xavier Tillman said. “Now it’s like everybody needs to contribute. If you’re not making a play, I’m gonna let you know we need you to make a play. We need everybody instead of just those two guys, give them the ball and get out of the way.

“It makes everyone have to step up and know their role and perform their role perfectly.”

For the players who have been around, they feel they have the right mix to perform that way.

“I just think this group has a really good mix of veterans and then freshmen coming in,” junior Joshua Langford said. “The freshmen that are coming in, they are really listening, really welcoming to the things the upperclassmen are telling them. It’s a good mix that every team needs, so I’m looking forward to seeing what this team does.”

Minor injury

McQuaid has been limited with a hamstring injury, but he says it’s nothing that should be a long-term problem.

“Just a minor hamstring injury,” McQuaid said. “Just taking it day by day now. I should be back soon, hopefully by this week or next week. Just day by day right now.”

Twitter @mattcharboneau