Students experience top-tier talent at MSU Madness
On Friday night, MSU hoops’ annual MSU Madness — formerly known as Midnight Madness — took place at the Breslin Center. Players signed autographs, the team was announced, fans got a glimpse of the squad with a scrimmage, coach Tom Izzo came out with a mascot lookalike and the environment was electric.
“It’s a super fun event. I’m really excited for it,” Brayden Smith said, a freshman business major and son of MSU basketball legend Steve Smith. “A lot of my friends are playing in it.”
Starting at 8:30 p.m., the doors opened and the madness began. Students and fans alike were nearly sprinting to get the best seats possible at the general admission event. Some ran to seats and some ran to the seemingly never-ending autograph lines to get signatures from coach Izzo, coach Merchant and both men’s and women’s teams.
“Get here early,” athletic training and kinesiology senior Katie Salanga said after experiencing the enormous line to get in.
Students were filled with excitement. For some, it was their first MSU Madness.
“I just came because we’re really excited about the season this year. So we wanted to come check out the team,” accounting freshman Mark Ciano said. “And I’m out of state so I’ve never been here before and it seemed like a fun experience.”
MSU statistics graduate student Wenrui Chang is in his first year at MSU in his degree program. This is his first time at MSU Madness.
People come to see the teams, the cheerleaders, or even just to go to a social event. But why did Chang go to MSU Madness?
“Maybe for a Miles Bridges dunk, I think," he said.
It’s arguable that the most popular portion of MSU Madness is seeing what antics coach Izzo takes part in. One fan, junior advertising major Evan Simon, who was there getting autographs to auction off for his charity, was expecting more from Izzo this year in years past.
“I hope Izzo comes out as something crazy because the past few years he hasn’t been doing that crazy stuff,” said Simon. “Like, he’s been having stunt doubles.”
People can forget that MSU Madness also exhibits the women’s basketball team, but fans came to see them nonetheless. Just like Salanga.
“I’m an athletic training student at Michigan State and I used to work with the women’s basketball team,” said Salanga. “So I’m here to see them.”
At around 9:55 p.m. after the cheerleaders’ showcase, the drum-line session, Sparty’s appearance on the floor and, of course, the t-shirt toss — the main event began.
The women’s basketball team were the first to come out, breaking out dance moves to songs of their choice to the pleasure of fans. All women got cheers, but they weren’t comparable to those of head coach Suzy Merchant.
After the Spartan men’s hoops team came out, it was time for the grand moment; what was Tom Izzo going to come out as?
Well, Simon was probably disappointed. Izzo came out clad in MSU sweats alongside a blow-up size mascot of the legendary coach.
“I think it makes sense,” junior elementary education major Jack Novak said. “It’s kind of hard to come up with a lot of things every year, but it was pretty cool the way he did it this year.”
Izzo wasn’t sure the blow-up doppelganger looked quite like him, and neither were the fans. Novak said that he didn’t think it looked at all like coach Izzo.
Why did they do such an anticlimactic entrance for Izzo?
In the words of sophomore Miles Bridges at his return announcement ceremony back in April, “It’s not about me, it’s about us.”
Perhaps Izzo wants the focus to be on the team as a whole. It’s an interesting tactic for a fan base waiting for an elaborate entrance, but one that carried a deeper message. This is the second straight year Izzo has come out lacking an exotic outfit. Last year, he wore his exclusive Hall of Fame jacket and simply walked out and made a speech.
The men and women's teams each played 10-minute scrimmages and 20-minute scrimmages respectively against each other to showcase the upcoming year’s talent to the fans.
The women’s scrimmage was a tightly contested match, with the green team edging out the gray team 16-11.
The men’s scrimmage was an idyllic glimpse of the 2017-18 basketball team, which is one of the highest ranked in the nation.
The green team consisted of Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges, Jack Hoiberg, Matt McQuaid, Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman and Gavin Schilling, and the gray team was Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, Conner George, Braden Burke, Kenny Goins, Nick Ward, Brock Washington, Ben Carter and Josh Langford.
Right off the bat, Chang — the graduate student — got what he wanted with a monstrous Miles Bridges dunk. The rest of the scrimmage was a mirage of three-pointers and alley-oops. In addition to his dunks, Bridges, showcased his versatile skill set, hitting threes, passing and drawing fouls in the lane.
Players were into the game; after a couple great dunks and forced turnovers, freshman Jackson Jr. was visibly upset about a foul call on him late in the scrimmage. After a nice double move from sophomore Winston at the baseline to score that put the game within two, it seemed these players were playing for more than just fun. There was pride on the line. A tight battled ensued but the green team pulled it out 44-40 thanks to consecutive Jackson Jr. and McQuaid three-pointers as time ticked down.
“Oh, it was exciting,” junior advertising major Ben Banta said. “It’s kind of hard to describe because we have so many expectations for this year. There’s so much hype going, it’s just a really good time.”
This isn’t the first time many students attended MSU Madness. Both Simon and Salanga have been before. But this won’t be the last for some.
“Oh, 100 percent I would absolutely go again. You don’t get to see players like that that often,” Banta said.
The MSU women’s team’s opening exhibition game takes place on Nov. 5 against Lake Superior State. They start their regular season on Nov. 11 at home against Robert Morris.
The men’s hoops team begins the season with exhibition matches against Ferris State on Oct. 26 and Hillsdale on Nov. 3 before taking on North Florida at the Breslin Center in the season opener on Nov. 10.