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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spartans release daunting men's basketball schedule

Tom Izzo has done it again. Only this time, he may have pushed further than ever before. Michigan State announced its 2011-2012 men's basketball schedule Wednesday -- and it's a duzy.
The Spartans begin the season in San Diego, playing on an air craft carrier against North Carolina, in the first-ever Carrier Classic. Four days later, MSU takes on Duke in Madison Square Garden. MSU if the first team to open a season with back-to-back games against North Carolina and Duke since 1976.
"With the one-two punch of North Carolina and Duke right out of the gates, it sets the tone for what, on paper, could prove to be one of our most difficult schedules ever," MSU coach Tom Izzo said in a statement released by the university. "Everyone said last year's schedule was one of our toughest, and yet, this year we are playing more teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament and postseason last year."
Michigan State plays 11 teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season and two others that played in the NIT.
Other difficult non-conference games include a road trip to Central Washington to take on Gonzaga and a home game against Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Michigan State also makes its first trip to Ypsilanti to take on Eastern Michigan since 1987.
Why Izzo agreed to play a game at Eastern Michigan is beyond me, and having to play UNC and Duke back-to-back is an unfortunate timeframe, but both those games will be great exposure.
What will be interesting is to see how the Spartans fair with the adjusted conference schedule now that Nebraska has joined the Big Ten. MSU will play seven league opponents twice, while facing Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa and Penn State only once.
Another oddity to the Spartans' schedule is the Auto Owners Insurance Spartan Invitation -- a five-team, four-game round robin tournament with the likes of Texas Southern, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Univeristy of Arkansas-Little Rock. Not sure what the Spartans gain out of that, other than a few sponsorship dollars.
MSU also added another Summit League school, other than Oakland Univeristy, to its schedule as it will host UMKC for a non-conference game.


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