Spartans pumped for fans return to Breslin in exhibition vs. Ferris State
East Lansing — It’s been a while since fans have packed the Breslin Center to watch Michigan State basketball.
March 8, 2020 was the last time. That afternoon, a delirious crowd watched Cassius Winston score 27 points in his final game as a Spartan to lock up a share of Michigan State’s third straight Big Ten championship.
It looked like Tom Izzo’s team was hitting its stride, ready to make another Final Four run. But just a handful of days later, everything came to an abrupt halt as the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than a year-and-a-half later, it matters little that Michigan State’s return to the home court is an exhibition game against Division II Ferris State. The fact that fans will able to see a new season begin is enough to add excitement to an interesting week around campus.
“We just had 1,200 people at a camp out,” Izzo said. “It was raining, man, it was awesome. It was like I was back in the UP. All those kids were so excited, we’ve had record turnout in season tickets. But I think our regular fans, too. I think we're seeing it in football. People want to be able to do something and what a way to start out the week. We’ve got this on Wednesday and leading into a little football game on Saturday. So, it's a great time.”
It’s the first of two exhibition games for Michigan State, which plays host to Grand Valley State on Nov. 4 before tipping off the regular season Nov. 9 against No. 3 Kansas in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
It will also be the first chance for a significantly new roster to hit the floor in a game. Izzo expects to rotate his players like a regular-season game, doing his best to improve on what he thought was a huge negative a season ago as the Spartans never were able to set a playing rotation.
“I’d like to get into a situation where I have an eight-, nine-(man) group and see what happens from there,” Izzo said. “So yeah, I hope that we're gonna play more by subbing. This will be a serious moment for us because of last year, where I think we were and what problems I think we had and some of them were in my substituting.”
There will be plenty of attention on the point guard position where sophomore A.J. Hoggard and junior transfer Tyson Walker are battling to see who starts.
Hoggard had an up-and-down freshman season but has played well in the summer and fall. Walker was a standout at Northeastern, an All-CAA first-teamer and defensive player of the year.
“I’ve got two point guards right now that I'd like to see a lot from,” Izzo said. “Walker, I'd like to see if we can stick to what he was — he was the best defensive player in that league. Can that spill over on us? At the point of attack, can he defend like I think he can, get his hands on balls do the stuff he can do? And then can he run our team? Can he run our break? A.J. has actually pushed the ball better than Walker, but Walker has done some things better than A.J.
“I’m really looking forward to playing. I don't think I'll play them together tomorrow, but I might, but I am going to play them and give them both a chance to do some things.”
Ferris State at Michigan State
►Tip-off: 7 p.m., Breslin Center, East Lansing
►TV/radio: BTN+/Spartan Sports Network
►Outlook: First of two exhibition games for MSU, which plays host to Grand Valley State on Nov. 4. … Graduate transfer guard Michael Peterson played four seasons at Ferris State, including his freshman year when he was part of the team that won the Division II National Championship.
— Matt Charboneau