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'We'll play anybody': Michigan State embraces schedule crunch ahead

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — While most college basketball players are all pushing to make it to the NBA, few actually get that opportunity.

Over the final few weeks of the regular season, however, plenty of them will start to get a taste, at least, of what an NBA schedule is like thanks to COVID-19 playing havoc with the Big Ten, creating postponements and a mess of rescheduling for the conference.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo watches over his team during warm-ups.

It’s leading to a jam-packed final half of the season in the Big Ten as everyone tries to play 20 games.

“We could play Saturday, Tuesday. Thursday, Saturday,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said this week. “I’m expecting that … even back-to-back games. I just think that everybody agrees that everybody wants to get the games in. Everybody agrees it's not going to be an even playing field this year, and I totally agree that I'd rather play as many games as we can.”

Michigan State is right in the thick of trying to get in games whenever it can.

The Spartans had four games postponed — the Iowa, Indiana and Illinois games because of COVID issues with the Spartans; and the Michigan game after the Wolverines were shut down for two weeks. The Iowa game was rescheduled and played last week while the Big Ten announced on Monday the Illinois game has been rescheduled for Feb. 23 at the Breslin Center.

That leaves two more games for the Spartans (9-7, 3-7 Big Ten) to play, who entered Tuesday night’s matchup with Penn State scrambling to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.

“I think the schedulers are trying to take it a week at a time,” Izzo said, “which sounds ridiculous but I just don't know any other way they can do it. As far as I'm concerned, we’ll play anybody, any place, any time.”

And with so much uncertainty to the schedule, Izzo and his staff have done their best to be prepared on matter who the Spartans play and when they play them. Each assistant as well as video staff have taken teams in the Big Ten and created preliminary scouting reports, a process that began back when Michigan State went 20 days without a game as it battled COVID issues.

“We have a semi-report on everybody now once,” Izzo said. “You’re going to have to upgrade it and change it, but at least we have something down and we have some film on each one, so in case we go Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, we'll have a leg up. So we did that early, and then we’ll have  a couple of long nights.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau