At first glance, Michigan State's 76-45 exhibition win versus Northwood University was just a meaningless dress rehearsal while awaiting the home opener on Nov. 13 against Florida Gulf Coast.
However, the reality is that each game is part of a long journey to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis, IN. Although Northwood is just a Division II school, Michigan State came away Sunday with lessons learned that will help the team reach its desired goal.
Michigan State doesn't want to play many games without the services of both Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen.
Morgan was out with an bad ankle, and Allen was nursing a groin injury. Michigan State started the game only making one of its first 11 shots. Against a better team, the Spartans could have been way behind instead of being ahead after the first four minutes.
Morgan can score in a variety of ways, and Allen can light it up from three-point range. It is very unlikely that the Spartans would get off to such a slow start with one or both players starting the game.
The injury bug can hit at any time. Michigan State has to have the depth to deal with such a crisis.
The Spartans already had two players out before Delvon Roe left with a head injury in the first half, and Durrell Summers developed a charley horse late in the second half. Although neither condition looks serious, the two exhibition games give Coach Tom Izzo the opportunity to play Austin Thornton and Isaiah Dahlman extended minutes to get them ready in case they are needed in clutch situations.
Summers and Draymond Green enter this season ready to emerge as major contributors.
The Timberwolves were only down 33-30 at halftime. However, the Spartans started the second half on a 7-0 spurt and never looked back.
Six of those seven points were scored by Summers. Already known as a fabulous dunker, Summers showed off his jumper against Northwood. He finished the game with a team-high 17 points.
Green scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He was aggressive on both ends of the floor and often found the open man to pass to after he drove to the basket. Green spent his summer shooting 100 three-pointers a day to extend his shooting range this season.
The Spartans have to communicate on defense to win a national championship.
Kalin Lucas was almost sent to a different county when he ran straight into a pick that nobody indicated to him was being employed. Korie Lucious is a fine athlete and can play either guard position, but the Spartans want Lucas leading the offense as much as possible.
The Spartans no longer have the services of their top rebounder and the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year from last season. Everyone must chip in to continue the tradition of the Spartans being strong defensively.
Michigan State might not be a "doughnut" team after all.
The conventional thought heading into Sunday's game was that the Spartans had great guards and forwards, but there was nobody to play the middle. However, the three-headed monster at center did quite well against Northwood.
Derrick Nix was the most impressive of the three. Rumor has it that Nix wears the No. 50 jersey to represent the 50 pounds he lost since graduating from high school. He was active throughout the game and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
Tom Herzog is not the most athletic player around, but he knew how to position himself to get easy baskets, and he accounted for two of the three blocks Michigan State had.
Garrick Sherman was not spectacular in his debut but showed signs of being capable of contributing right away. It is still early but perhaps the Spartan doughnut is filled with something tasty instead of empty space.
Michigan State will play again on Nov. 9 against Grand Valley State at the Breslin Center. Two years ago, the Lakers defeated the Spartans 85-82 in double overtime.
Based on that result, Michigan State should take the game seriously and look to build upon the positive aspects of the previous outing.