"It's worth not having the weekend off"

Michigan State players excited for opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden more than what could have been a weekend off to rest and recover.

When Michigan State's game with Georgetown was announced as part of "Super Saturday" leading into the Super Bowl, the game carried a lot of appeal.

After all, what team wouldn't want to play in New York on Super Bowl weekend?

But things look different now for Michigan State. Instead of a chance at an eight-day break between games and a chance to get healthy, the Spartans are headed to New York to play the Hoyas.

"As you can imagine a couple weeks ago I said, ‘Boy, it would be nice to have that weekend off and give my guys some rest,'" coach Tom Izzo said. "Then like my guys said, they are going to Madison Square Garden. For a basketball player, that's utopia. I still am amazed.

"If you ask Magic, even, where he'd like to play or Steve Smith, where he'd like to play, it doesn't matter which pro. It's New York and Madison Square Garden."

Michigan State has been without Adreian Payne for six games and Branden Dawson for two and neither will play Saturday, but for point guard Keith Appling, the break might have been welcome to rest an ailing wrist.

"I would rather have the weekend off," he said, "but Madison Square, it's just such an exciting place to play. I just would never want to miss out on the opportunity to play there.

"I think it's worth not having the weekend off."

While Appling has played in New York City's famed arena, it will be the first trip for sophomore Gary Harris.

"Everybody says that's the mecca of basketball," he said. "Everybody dreams of playing in the Garden and now is my chance and I'm looking forward to it."

Sophomore Denzel Valentine said he expects to walk into the Garden and just gaze up at all the banners and soak it all in.

"All the greats that have played the game of basketball have played there," he said. "That's a big opportunity to play there in a facility like the Garden.

"To play there is very special."

"Super Saturday" will kick off with St. John's against Marquette at 12:30 p.m. before the Spartans play the Hoyas at 3 p.m. The New York Knicks will host the Miami Heat in the nightcap.


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