The past few years have been good for the Spartans. A few 20-win seasons, a little respect in the polls, and some surprise wins in March...
...but Spartans fans are sick of good teams. We know our past squads have fallen short of their potential. We know what it’s like to be the best. A great team has been in hiding since 2001, and there’s no better season than this to let it out.
The Neitzel era is over. What he did over four years in East Lansing will never be forgotten, but at times last season it was apparent that he did not fit the team’s new mold. Don’t expect any of the low-scoring, grind-it-out games we had last year (36 points at Iowa?!). This team is athletic, deep, fast and can score at every position.
Kalin Lucas could be the quickest point guard in the NCAA, Raymar Morgan is a mismatch for even the best defenders, Chris Allen has been called “the greatest pure shooter I’ve ever seen” by Izzo, and super frosh Delvon Roe is an All-American in the making.
Add in senior big men Goran Suton, Marquise Gray, and Idong Ibok, along with freshmen Korie Lucious (just as fast as Kalin) and Draymond Green, and you’ve got one of the deepest teams out there.
Then there’s Durell Summers. He played limited time last season, and whenever he did see the floor, it seemed like Izzo was especially critical of his play. Now he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Take preseason games for what they are, but Summers has been a one-man scoring machine so far. He showed the ability to shoot the three, run the floor, and throw down highlight-reel dunks while averaging 24 ppg in his first two outings.
As always, Izzo isn’t wasting time to prep his team for March. Here are some of the highlights from one of the nation’s toughest schedules.
Nov. 27-30: Old Spice Classic—Orlando, FL
A Thanksgiving matchup against Maryland could turn into a date with No. 10 Gonzaga and a championship game with either NO. 14 Tennessee or No. 22 Georgetown. Two wins over ranked teams before November would be a nice way to start things off.
Dec. 3: No. 1 North Carolina—Detroit, MI (Ford Field)
This has the potential to be the biggest game of the year and a possible preview of this year’s national championship game on the Final Four court. We had the option to play this in the friendly confines of the Breslin, but Izzo has bigger plans for this seasons. Psycho T won’t be 100 percent at this point, so the Tar Heels will be vulnerable.
Dec. 20: No. 7 Texas—Houston, TX (Toyota Center)
We upset Texas at the Palace in a “neutral site” game last year. Now they’ll be looking to return the favor on the Rockets' home court.
Jan. 10: No. 23 Kansas—East Lansing, MI
Kansas isn’t who they were last year, but a win over the defending national champs never hurts a résumé.
Jan. 29: Iowa—Iowa City, IA
The last trip to Iowa City ended up haunting our team for the rest of the season. 36 points? I still can’t believe it! This will be our chance to get that monkey off our back.
Feb. 10: Michigan—Ann Arbor, MI
It shouldn’t be too tough to beat up on little sister, but it’s our only meeting this year. If Manny Harris goes for 60 they might stand a chance.
Feb. 17: No. 11 Purdue—West Lafayette, IN
The baby Boilermakers shocked everyone last year and are now picked by many to win the conference. I’d rather not see that happen. Stealing a road win here would be a huge start for this series.
Feb. 22: No. 25 Wisconsin—East Lansing, MI
No one really knows how the 2009 Badgers will fare. Bo Ryan has been Izzo’s kryptonite. He’ll have Landry and the rest of the defending Big Ten champs ready to play, and we’ll be coming off two emotional matchups.
March 8: No. 11 Purdue—East Lansing, MI
The Big Ten schedule makers didn’t hold back on the dramatics. This could shape up to be for the Big Ten title, which hasn’t ended up in East Lansing since 2001.
April 4-6: Final Four—Detroit, MI (Ford Field)
It would be a shame to miss out on home court advantage for the finals.
The planets are aligned for a storybook season.
In Izzo we Trust.
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