Words that are synonymous with college sports fans across the country. For the sixth time in school history, College GameDay made its way to the Breslin Center this weekend as Michigan State men's basketball prepares to take on No. 9 Maryland in a matchup that is crucial in the race for the Big Ten regular season title.
The Izzone is known for being one of the best student sections in the country, but GameDay brings out incredible levels of energy that only a huge win over the Terrapins could replicate. Even ESPN college basketball analyst and College GameDay member Jay Bilas, a former Duke basketball player who has been around the Cameron Crazies, loves coming to East Lansing for that atmosphere.
“Every year we come here to the Breslin it is off the charts good with the crowd and the support that Michigan State gets,” Bilas said. “It's always a great venue for the game.”
The students enjoy GameDay so much to the point where they will camp out for just a chance to be on television and also to support their team. Hospitality business senior Skyler Hansen was camped out over an hour before the doors opened despite the temperature being 10 degrees.
“I love GameDay,” Hansen said. “I've been here a few times over the years, it’s just a great experience. I love watching it on TV and for them to be here for us, it's really special.”
Hansen is hoping that he can maybe catch the eye of his favorite commentator Jay Bilas when he’s in the crowd.
“I love Jay Bilas, he’s my favorite,” Hanson said. “He’s my favorite commentator for games and my favorite guy on GameDay, so I’d love to meet him.”
Economics junior Vanessa Veersma was also extremely excited for the opportunity to come out for this experience.
“I love College GameDay, and I love our whole team," Veersma said. “I got to be out here to support them.”
Former Virginia Tech head basketball coach and now ESPN College Basketball Analyst Seth Greenberg loves coming here each year because of the atmosphere that people like Hansen and Veersma bring.
“The games are always magnificent, and the environment is terrific for our show,” Greenberg said. “The Izzone shows up and so does the rest of the student body. The community and the energy and the enthusiasm of the people that attend the show is a big part of the show.”
Greenberg’s relationship with coach Tom Izzo goes way back, as he remembers the days when he first met Izzo.
“We first met when Coach Heathcote was the head coach,” Greenberg said. “Tom (Izzo) was the graduate assistant and I came in actually take a view for an assistant coaching job. (Izzo) had this little like school desk in the corner of the old Jenison Field House, and all Tom basically did was listen to Jud (Heathcote) bust his chops.”
Knowing him from those days, Greenberg is impressed with the way Izzo has built this program in every aspect.
“It’s incredible," Greenberg said. “It's phenomenal, (Izzo's) fingerprints are on every aspect of this program. Coach Heathcote ... ,is one of the greatest of all time, but he would never thought of this,” Greenberg said while pointing to the Hall of History. “He would have never thought of the locker room, he would never thought of all the other things, the amenities that it takes in the culture of college basketball today to build a program.”
LaPhonso Ellis, a former professional basketball player and star at Notre Dame, has recently joined the GameDay crew and was visiting Michigan State’s basketball program for the first time.
“It’s beautiful,” Ellis said. “You walk in and you see the expanse and seeing the logo right up there and I don't know if it's been like this always, but there's so much information. I find my eyes and moving more quickly than my brain can absolutely absorb the information out, it is beautiful, it's really well done.”
Despite being one of the best environments in the country, the reason College GameDay has come to MSU is for the big matchup between the Spartans and the Terrapins. For Greenberg, the two keys of the game will be who wins the point guard battle between Cassius Winston and Anthony Cowan Jr, and limiting Maryland's Jalen Smith.
"We have two of the best point guards in the country in (Cowan Jr.) and (Winston) and the one that takes better care of the basketball, probably be that team will have a huge advantage,” Greenberg said. “Smith is playing at a ridiculous our high level for Maryland. So you know Michigan State is going to have to do a good job of finding him in transition and attacking him and making him defend because if they can get him out of the game, that's going to be absolutely huge."
For Hansen, he thinks this will be a big MSU victory.
“Oh we’re going to win, I know that.” Hansen said. “That’s my only prediction."
The last time Michigan State hosted College GameDay, the Spartans fell to the Indiana Hoosiers, and only time will tell if Izzo’s squad can live up to expectations and secure a win while GameDay is in town.