On an unseasonably warm October night, Spartan fans from around the state packed in to the Breslin Center to witness the spectacle that is Michigan State Madness (formerly known as Midnight Madness). Lines wrapped all the way around the stadium, one even stretching from the Magic Johnson statue to Shaw Lane.
Coach Tom Izzo has built quite the reputation for flashy entrances, and spectators were clueless as to what he might do this time. In recent years, Izzo rode in on a horse, came in dressed as Iron Man and even had a little help from a real-life Spartan, Gerard Butler. Last year, he faked out everyone in the building (myself included) when he pretended to get shot out of a giant cannon.
Even the radio broadcast team of Matt Steigenga and former coach Gus Ganakas said they had no idea how Coach Izzo would come out.
“I honestly have no idea. Maybe he’ll be a part of a cover band or something,” said Steigenga, who pointed to a drum set and amplifiers behind one of the baskets.
“They don’t tell me anything,” replied Ganakas.
Spectators were entertained before the event with the replaying of last year’s football game against Michigan on the video board above the court. Players from both the men’s and women’s teams were available to sign posters, balls, shirts and other MSU paraphernalia for eager Spartan fans.
The MSU marching band kicked off Michigan State Madness with an always-stellar rendition of the fight song. After the drumline pounded my ears into submission, it was time for one of my favorite events: musical chairs. This event always gives me the opportunity to harshly judge the lack of skill exhibited by the contestants while giving my self-esteem a healthy boost.
The women’s team was introduced next and displayed some impressive dance moves. Then came time for head coach Suzy Merchant’s grand entrance. It was somewhat disappointing, as she appeared on a stage dressed as Beyonce and proceeded to dance with the cheer team. But her outfit was spot on, and she defied the odds by pulling off complicated dance moves while wearing incredibly high heels.
As usual, Coach Izzo blew everyone away. Fans were treated to a video of Izzo and his family talking about what he would do if he were not a coach. They then “flashed back” to 1974 to a dorm room with Izzo and Steve Mariucci. Finally a Kiss cover band accompanied by a fully dressed Izzo and an accordion played “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City”.
What followed was a confusing and poorly organized game featuring a current men’s and women’s player, a former men’s player and a fan. No one even knew who won the first game, but we did learn that Drew Neitzel can still outshoot everyone in the building and Branden Dawson has better form on his half court shots than his 15-foot jumpers.
The 20-minute scrimmage was begging me to jump to wild conclusions about the team and the newcomers, but when the band starts to play during the game, all credibility goes out the window. Defense was spotty and no one was afraid to shoot. The only conclusion I am certain of: Keenan Wetzel’s hair is already in midseason form.
The conclusion of another Michigan State Madness means that another Spartan basketball season is upon us, and hope springs eternal. The first preseason game is on November 3 against “The Legend” Russell Byrd and The Masters College at 7 p.m. at the Breslin Center.