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MSU Madness shows first glimpse of basketball teams

October 16, 2016
Men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo gives a speech during Michigan State Madness on Oct. 14, 2016 at Breslin Center. Izzo has been the men's basketball head coach at MSU since 1995.
Men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo gives a speech during Michigan State Madness on Oct. 14, 2016 at Breslin Center. Izzo has been the men's basketball head coach at MSU since 1995. —
Photo by Nic Antaya | and Nic Antaya The State News

This year marks the first time the event has been called MSU Madness. In years prior, it was known as “Midnight Madness.”

MSU women’s basketball was the first of the two programs to be introduced for the event. The women came out to several different songs, joining their teammates at the center of the court while hyping up the women who came after them.

A standout was redshirt-freshman forward Victoria Gaines, coming out to “Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama. She mimicked the moves from the music video, while putting on her lip gloss for the camera.

The crowd rose to their feet, when the team’s only seniors, guards Branndais Agee and Tori Jankoska came on the court. The two seniors will be the driving force and leaders on the team since Aerial Powers has made her transition to the WNBA.

Jankoska is ranked fourth all-time in the MSU career record book with 198 3-point shots made, and she has received the Playmaker award at the team’s banquet three seasons in a row. She was second-team All-Big Ten and All-Big Ten shooter honorable mention the past two seasons. This season, Jankoska will have Agee on her side with more responsibilities on the court.

MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant spoke to the crowd about her team, after performing to the Spartan rendition of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.”

“So we’re excited about this season, you’ll get a chance and opportunity to watch us play again,” Merchant said. “We’re led by Tori Jankoska, who’s an all-conference player at Michigan State, and All-Big Ten player.”

The MSU men’s basketball team came out a little differently this year. The men came down the Breslin stairs to their chosen songs in tuxedos. When the whole team reached the court, the crowd simply waited for Tom Izzo’s grand entrance.

This year, however, Izzo didn’t have a grand entrance. The Spartans honored him instead. As Izzo walked in, everyone rose to their feet clapping for the Hall of Famer and 2016 Dean Smith award recipient. Izzo sported his exclusive hall of fame jacket and ring. Izzo later traded it in for his Spartan coaching jacket.

“The dream is still alive,” Izzo said. “We’re going to work, and we’re going to try and do what we do at Michigan State — we’re going to try and hang another banner. ... We’ve still got some work to make this the greatest place in America.”

In the team scrimmage, MSU men’s basketball played a game for bragging rights. Veteran guards, junior Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., senior Eron Harris and senior Alvin Ellis III led the green team. Freshmen forward Miles Bridges, guard Cassius Winston and forward Nick Ward represented for the gold team.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Bridges brought a wow-factor to the team several times through the scrimmage. Bridges dunked on his teammates, scoring for his team and bringing a fun element to the game.

Harris was effortless on the 3-point line and ultimately led the green team to their win. He had the captain hat on the minute he stepped on the court.

Harris, a fifth-year senior, stepped up last season in the four games Denzel Valentine missed because of his injury. Harris averaged 17.8 points in those games, and he started 22 out of the 23 final games of the season. Now that both former MSU players Valentine and Bryn Forbes have made their way into the NBA, Harris will have to step up to lead MSU back to the NCAA Tournament.

The men’s basketball team will open up exhibition play against Northwood University on Oct. 27, and the women’s team will play Northwood on Nov. 6.

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