NCAAB: These are the games that will make or break Michigan State’s basketball season

darren cooper
By:
Darren Cooper
19/10/2023/
NCAAB

Highlights

  • Michigan State starts the season ranked No. 4 in the first national AP Top 25 poll, but is only the second highest team from the Big 10. Purdue is No. 2.
  • The Spartans have made the NCAA Tournament 25 straight years, the third longest streak in NCAA history.
  • Guards AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker were each named to the All-Big Ten preseason team.

Michigan State basketball will be here before you know it.

The Spartans were tabbed No. 4 in the first 2023 Associated Press college basketball poll of the season this week. Coach Tom Izzo’s bunch brings back four starters and 11 different letter winners from last year. They also, somehow, managed to avoid getting raided in the transfer portal.

The Spartans play their first exhibition game Oct. 25, and open the season Nov. 6 against James Madison. Top Michigan sportsbooks will have odds on every game, but for now, the future bets are out. DraftKings Sportsbook has Michigan State fifth on their board to win the national title at +1500, and second to win the Big 10 at +300. Caesars has pretty much the same, fifth to win the national title and second behind Purdue.

The Spartans schedule will be one of the toughest in the country, here are five games that will define their season:

Nov. 14 vs. Duke in Chicago

How’s this for an early season test? Michigan State last met Duke in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, during Coach K’s last season.

Duke is now under the leadership of Jon Scheyer, and features star sophomore Kyle Filipowski, who was the ACC Rookie of the Year and is a pre-season All-American. Duke has won four of the last six meetings.

Thanksgiving vs. Arizona in California

This is the Acrisure Classic in Palm Springs and it will be the first college basketball game in the new arena. The Wildcats are ranked No. 12 in the preseason and are usually a West Coast power.

Izzo is 2-3 against Arizona in his career.

Jan. 30 vs. Michigan

Well of course, every season turns on the games with rival Michigan. The two teams split last season, with the Spartans losing in Ann Arbor 84-72, and coming back and beating them in East Lansing, 59-53.

State has won seven of the last 11 meetings and hasn’t lost to the Wolverines in East Lansing since 2018.

Feb. 20 vs. Iowa

Michigan State fans would rather forget what happened in last year’s game in Iowa. The Spartans were up 13 points with 1:34 left in the game when Iowa suddenly couldn’t miss a shot. They made four threes in a row and beat State in OT 112-106. Michigan State edged the Hawkeyes at home 63-61.

March 2 at Purdue

Very possibly the game of the year in college basketball and perhaps the Big 10 title will be on the line.

The Boilermakers feature “Big Maple” the 7-foot-4, 290-pound beast Zach Edey. He torched the Spartans last year with 32 points - including a game winner with 2.2 seconds left - in a 64-63 win in East Lansing, then scored a career high 38 in a 77-61 win in Indiana. No college basketball team has been able to stop Edey so far, but the Spartans will have to try.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.