What to Look For in Exhibition Opener

Michigan State finally returns to the hardwood for real (sort of) Thursday night with an exhibition game against Northwood University.

Unlike most years, there is a level of uncertainty surrounding the team with the rash of injuries and addition of new players. How will MSU replace Gavin Schilling? How many freshmen will start? Who is the go-to scorer? While all of these questions probably won’t be answered in one exhibition game, fans will at least get to see a glimpse of what’s to come for the new-look Spartans. Here are some things to watch for Thursday night.

Think Small

Much has been made of the injuries to forwards Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling, the two biggest players (literally) on Michigan State’s roster. Coach Izzo will be forced to use a combination of different smaller lineups, perhaps smaller than ever before in his tenure at MSU

Izzo said after practice on Tuesday that the tentative starting lineup for the game would be Tum Tum Nairn, Eron Harris, Matt McQuaid, Miles Bridges and Kenny Goins. Forget who is playing shooting guard or small forward or power forward. There will be a point guard, three wings and a center. Izzo hopes to use the athleticism of his team to move players around and play “positionless basketball.” This is usually another word for small ball. How small? “Center” Kenny Goins is only 6-foot-6. Yeah, that small.

Freshmen Phenoms

Did you know that Michigan State had one of the highest-rated recruiting classes in 2016? Oh, you did? MSU’s freshmen are perhaps the most hyped players to ever don the green and white in the last 20 years. Now it’s time to see what they’re made of.

“We have to play like juniors and seniors,” said Bridges. “We can’t play like freshmen because there’s a lot of people out and we have to mature fast.”

Izzo said guard Cassius Winston has the potential to become the best passer in the state since Magic Johnson. He will provide a change of pace for the offense when he takes over for Nairn.

“He (Nairn) just brings that intensity out of everybody, he brings out another side of everybody, and he just wants us to go hard every play,” said Bridges. “Cassius is more calm, more smooth.”

Josh Langford might be the most underrated player in the class, even though he was a five-star recruit. Langford is quick and has a mean midrange game, which Bridges said reminds him of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan.

Nick Ward is a “poor poor poor poor man’s Zach Randolph,” according to Izzo. Kind of a backhanded compliment. Ward is a force in the post with not much of an outside game. He lost over 20 pounds over the summer and looks much stronger and quicker than in high school.

Bridges is the crown jewel of the class. The likely one-and-done phenom is possibly one of the most athletic players in the Big Ten. His electrifying dunks will excite the crowd, but his game is much more than that. He can take defenders off the dribble, shoot the three and work in the post. He can even play the point at times if needed.

Tip-off at the Breslin Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday night. Michigan State plays one more exhibition game on Nov. 2 before heading to Hawaii for their season opener against Arizona.

Originally posted – http://impact89fm.org/sports/what-to-look-for-in-exhibition-opener/


Author: Blake Froling

I am currently the Sports Director at ESPN UP in Marquette, Michigan, where I host a daily sports talk show called The SportsPen. I am also the play-by-play voice for Westwood High School football and boys and girls basketball. I graduated from Michigan State University in December 2016 with a degree in journalism.

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