Michigan State Basketball officially kicks off the preparation for their 07-08 season on Friday night at Midnight Madness, where the highly anticipated top-ranked Spartans will hit the hardwood in their first public appearance as a team.
Later that same weekend, Tom Izzo gets regular season practice under way, finally having his complete team together on the same court.
"Raymar (Morgan)is in one place, Drew (Neitzel) is in another place, Travis (Walton) is at home and (Goran) Suton is visiting relatives overseas," said Izzo. "So all of these guys have been gone over the summer more than past years, but overall it has been a very good summer but I just don't have a good feel about the team simply because they haven't been around as much."
"Our first week of practice is coming up and we will see where guys are and we will set things straight as to what we want to get accomplished this year," added Izzo. "We need to work on our running game, maintain our defense, try to improve on our rebounding and free-throw shooting and those are just some of the areas we always emphasize heading into a new season."
With much of the media around the country picking MSU as a top-ranked team and a Final Four hopeful, Izzo says he likes to have that kind of national pressure.
"We're really looking forward to a great year, I'm going to enjoy being back with the bulls-eye on our back," said Izzo. "I am looking forward to having that pressure back but it also means that people regard us as one of the top teams in the country, and that is good for Michigan State basketball."
With high expectation comes a hard schedule, and the Spartans will have their hands full in their non-conference schedule, playing Big-12 powerhouse Texas in the Spartan Clash in Auburn Hills as well as traveling to BYU and Bradley in back-to-back road games.
In addition, every team in the Big Ten will now play two more conference games for a total of 18 rather than the previous 16. The only two games that MSU will miss out on will be paying a visit to Ann Arbor for Michigan and hosting Wisconsin in East Lansing.
This summer the Spartans welcomed four incoming freshman to the team.
6-foot guard Kalin Lucas, 6-foot-3 guard Chris Allen, 6-foot-4 guard Durrell Summers, and 6-foot-5 forward Austin Thornton make up the #3 recruiting class in college basketball.
All four freshmen will provide depth, size, and toughness to the Spartans and make them a highly potent team on both ends of the court.
"I expect them all to contribute, we are going to play a lot of guys," said Izzo. "We didn't bring those freshmen in to sit on the bench; they will determine their playing time."
MSU did sustain a setback during the offseason as junior guard Travis Walton was sidelined with a minor tear of his stomach mucles.
"He's coming along but he's not 100 percent," said Izzo. "We also have Drew (Neitzel) with shin problems from the Pan-American games but he'll be ready. It's just a matter of those couple of guys getting back but it won't be long term things."
After undergoing minor surgery to repair things and missing most of the summer with the team, Walton now returns with hopes of getting back into shape and making a full recovery soon.
Overall, MSU hoops has all the makings to have a big year and make a huge splash on the national scene throughout the year as well as during March Madness.
"I like where we are right now but we haven't played a game yet," said Izzo. "It will come down to whether we have good chemistry and if we get fat and sassy out on the court. We will have to wait and see."
But the first step of the season will come on Friday night, as the players will hit the court in front of the Spartan faithful during Midnight Madness.
Tom Izzo Previews MSU Hoops Season
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