"That's why you come to Michigan State"

Big-time schedule helps bring excitement, players to East Lansing ... at least, that's what they say heading into a season with some high-profile games on the docket.

Big-time nonconference games are not a new thing to Michigan State basketball.

In fact, it is the expectation of playing high-profile opponents that draws players to play for Tom Izzo.

At least, that's what many Spartans said about facing Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgetown this season.

Adreian Payne: "That's why I came here to play in big games and play a tough schedule and to play the best competition."

Branden Dawson: "That's the main reason why myself and the rest of these guys chose Michigan State."

Matt Costello: "That's why you come to Michigan State, to play these type of games and play a big schedule like that."

Kenny Kaminski: "That's one of the reasons why I came here. Coach always has a crazy schedule and plays in the craziest places."

While this year's slate doesn't bring any games in Germany or on an aircraft carrier, it does feature with the early-season premier matchup of preseason No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Michigan State on Nov. 12 in Chicago.

"We are very excited," Dawson said. "A lot of people talk about Kentucky and all the freshmen they have coming in. Those guys are good, not taking anything from those guys. They have seven or eight McDonald's All-Americans, but I would say we are definitely ready to play.

"It's going to be a great game."

With North Carolina coming to East Lansing for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4, it provides another early-season test for the Spartans.

"It always helps," Payne said. "You know coach always does a great job in getting us a good schedule. That's what we do."

While the games against a pair of college basketball blue bloods come early, a matchup with Georgetown in Brooklyn on Feb. 1 awaits in the middle of the brutal Big Ten season.

"The Big Ten is going to be a bear again," Costello said. "Everybody is going to be good."

Izzo said some stretches of the Big Ten season resemble a "murderer's row," but his players also tell him that is exactly why they came to East Lansing.

He said a tough schedule can be a good or bad thing – but generally positive as his past teams have shown.

"Sometimes you get what you wish for, and sometimes it's negative, sometimes it's positive," Izzo said. "I think this is a positive thing. They're going to play the best teams. I've tried to tell them we've got to keep things in perspective. I think most of the Final Fours I've been in, we've had the team with the most losses, and I think some of that is because of what we do."

Still, facing a schedule that has six games against teams ranked in the preseason top 11 brings its pressure, although that's not how junior Travis Trice said he views it.

"I wouldn't say it's pressure," he said. "I take it as an opportunity. That's why we came here is to be in the limelight for everybody to see and wait on us to lose or mess up.

"That's one thing we signed up for when we came here."


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