Spartans not looking ahead to UK

With Friday's season opener against McNeese on tap, Michigan State not ready to talk marquee matchup with Kentucky just yet.

When looking at Michigan State's basketball schedule, the early-season showdown with Kentucky jumps off the page.

Don't tell the Spartans that, though, as they ready to open the regular season against McNeese State on Friday night.

"We don't play Kentucky yet," sophomore guard Gary Harris said. "We play McNeese. We gotta focus on what's in front of because they are a Division 1 team as well and the first team on our schedule.

"We've gotta get started off on the right foot and get that first win of the season before we can even think about the second game or any game after that."

Kentucky is the second game of the MSU season as part of the Champions Classic in Chicago on Tuesday.

There is little doubt what coach Tom Izzo's message to his team is until the end of Friday night's season opener.

"We aren't allowed to talk about Kentucky right now," senior Adreian Payne said. "What we are trying to do is just take it game by game and focus on what we need to do to get better and not what other people are doing."

Izzo took it beyond and said if he catches someone talking about Kentucky too soon he isn't beyond benching them.

"We have got to be mature enough to understand that every team is going to come after us," he said. "I think that we've played in enough big games as a program that they players understand that."

With a veteran-led group, senior Keith Appling said it helps keep the focus on the first game and the task at hand without looking forward.

"We gotta take it one game at a time," he said. "We can't look past no one. That's how upsets happen."

Still, Izzo said the fact the game against UK looms in the near future isn't lost on his players.

"You'd have to be stupid not to have it be somewhere in your mind," he said. "Whether you're a coach, you're a player or anything else, how often does it happen where No. 1 plays No. 2 to start with. I think these guys understand that.

"We're going to have time after that game to prepare for the next game. I haven't seen that be a problem at all."

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