Head Coach Suzy Merchant’s Spartans are off to a hot start (6-1). Ranked No. 17 in the AP preseason polls, the team has lived up to their ranking and then some.
After suffering their first loss of the season against LSU (7-1) in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas, they would bounce back with a five point victory against Kansas State (3-3) where sophomore guard Nia Clouden led the team with 16 points.
Overcoming adversity away from home in one of their first tests of the season, the Spartans will have to pack their bags again for Tallahassee, Florida in what may be their biggest test thus far.
On Thursday Dec. 5, in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the No. 19 Spartans will meet the undefeated and No. 8 Florida State Seminoles (7-0) on their court.
The Spartans are no stranger to taking down a higher ranked opponent this season. While ranked No. 16, the group followed Clouden’s career high 28 points to knock off then ranked-No. 15 Notre Dame by three.
But as much as the Spartans are hungry, the Seminoles won’t give up their undefeated season with ease.
In Florida State’s young season they have handled every team they have met with, defeating LSU, the only team the Spartans have been edged by, by eight. Most recently, the Seminoles pushed themselves to No. 9 in the power rankings after dismantling No. 6 Texas A&M by 22 points in the Maggie Dixon Classic.
The Seminoles size will be something that stands out for the Spartans immediately and could prove a challenge to the smaller team.
Comparing the two teams' singular game in common, against LSU, the Seminoles were able to secure 40 rebounds and outrebounded the Tigers by 10. Michigan State managed 36 rebounds but were outrebounded by the Tigers in the loss.
While the Spartans hold an edge on assists, perhaps being the better ball movement team of the two, both teams cough up the ball a lot. Michigan State turned it over 21 times in their loss to LSU, and Florida State lost it 17 times.
In what sits as a competition between two Top 20 ranked teams, both the Spartans and the Seminoles will have film to watch before Thursday, in what could be a tournament-caliber game.
Looking ahead, the Spartans will have one game at home and another road trip with the Sunshine Challenge in Orlando, Florida before they open Big Ten play.
With Morehead State (3-4), Syracuse (4-3) and West Virginia (5-1) being the Spartans' competition prior to the start of their Big Ten schedule, No. 12 Florida State will be their biggest game down the stretch. A victory in Tallahassee could prove to be strong one when the Spartans make their case leading into March.
No. 19 Michigan State Spartans' meeting with No. 8 Florida State will air on ACC Network at 8 p.m. this Thursday, Dec. 5.
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