Marquee Matchup: Michigan State vs. Texas

With the season just one week old, Michigan State (3-0) gets an early test as they face the #19 Texas Longhorns (2-0) at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday night (9:30 p.m. EST ESPN2).

EAST LANSING - With the season just one week old, Michigan State (3-0) gets an early test as they face the #19 Texas Longhorns (2-0) at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday night (9:30 p.m. EST ESPN2).

Having reeled off consecutive wins against Brown, Youngstown State, and The Citadel, MSU has plenty of confidence heading into New York but Rick Barnes' Longhorns pose a major problem for a young Spartan team. Ironically, Texas has an even younger team than MSU.

Having the #3 rated recruiting class in the nation in 2006, Barnes starts three freshman from that class: Damion Jones, D.J. Augustin, and Kevin Durant. Sophomores A.J. Abrams and Connor Atchley round out the starting five for the Longhorns, who are averaging 97.5 points in two games this season.

"They are a very talented, young but very athletic team," said Coach Tom Izzo. "Its going to be a great test for us, we are playing a team with as much athleticism as any team we've seen in a long time."

"I think the tournament comes at a good time for us it'll give us a little idea of where we are where we need to go and what we need to do," said Izzo. "There will be 4 good teams there that will give us a good vibe of where we are."

In the other semifinal contest of the 2K College Hoops Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, Maryland (3-0) takes on St. Johns (2-0) for a trip to championship game held on Friday night.

MSU is guaranteed to play either the Terrapins or Red Storm on Friday night, but whether it will be in the tournament championship game or the consolation game will be decided in the outcome of their matchup with Texas.

Win or lose, facing an athletic and dangerous Longhorn team will benefit the Spartans and can only get them better in terms of seeing where young players such as Raymar Morgan and Isaiah Dahlman are and how they perform in a big-time game against a ranked opponent.

If he gets into double-figures against Texas, Morgan would become the first freshman in MSU history to score in double-figures in his first four games.

Along with Morgan, the new starters and contributors will need to step up and support Drew Neitzel, who has led the team in scoring in the last two games.

Goran Suton, Maurice Joseph, Drew Naymick, Marquise Gray, and Dahlman all showed scoring ability in their first three games, but the biggest question is can they keep it up against a tougher level of competition?

"Consistency is a big problem right now, we're still making some of the same mistakes," said Izzo.

Playing the Longhorns will give the young Spartans a taste of what their Big Ten Conference schedule might be like, facing an Ohio State team that has newcomer Greg Oden, who mirrors Kevin Durant.

Durant can go outside, shoot the three, be a point guard, he's kind of a Tracy McGrady type player; thin, active, athletic, and very good with the ball," said Izzo, who believes that the 6-foot-9 225-pound Durant is "probably the best player in the country."

Izzo stated that freshman Raymar Morgan will have the job of guarding Durant, who Morgan scrimmaged against during the summer

"I'm concerned about Raymar's foul trouble because Kevin can put the ball on the floor very well, so we're going to have to be extremely intelligent in how we deal with that," Izzo stated.

Durant and teammate A.J. Abrams are both averaging 20.5 points in two games this season, with Durant adding 9.5 rebounds a game and Abrams averaging 8 assists.

After getting away with turnovers and sloppy play against some weaker teams, the Spartans will need to hold on to the ball if they want to stay with the Longhorns.

Shooting 50 percent from three-point as a team, as well as Abrams' 65 percent (11-17 from 3-point), the Longhorns have the weapons and athleticism to make the Spartan pay for coughing up the ball, possibly putting them in a deep hole.

Overall, it will be interesting to see how the Spartans play in their first real test of the season and what they can get out of the experience.

The two games in the Big Apple ought to get them ready for the level of competition that they will see later on in Big Ten play.

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