Serving as an early barometer, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo consistently and purposefully throws upper-echelon teams on his nonconference schedule to test his team's stomach.
So far, so good. Izzo's asking-for-it mentality when it comes to clashing with the big boys has paid dividends in the form of six Final Fours and Big Ten supremacy.
A chip on the shoulder would benefit the Spartans this year. The loss to coach Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 was more than a loss. It's also more than enough motivation for players such as Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, who lead a group poised to romp toward March.
Izzo's program is respected by many, but likewise is true for Kentucky, Texas and Georgetown, three of his nonconference opponents this season. There are matchups, both individually and teamwise, that have nightmare potential for the Spartans.