The 2022-23 season has hit its halfway point, and it’s crunch time for MSU and the rest of the conference as far as the NCAA tournament goes.
Following a 77-61 loss at Mackey Arena on Sunday afternoon, Michigan State men’s basketball is looking to get back on track with a win against Rutgers on Saturday.
On Thursday afternoon, Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo met with the media to discuss the loss in West Lafayette and the upcoming road trip to New York City against the Scarlet Knights.
“They’re one of the oldest, toughest and most aggressive teams in our league,” Izzo said.
Izzo said he’s excited for the road trip, and his players are looking forward to the opportunity to travel to an arena with as much history as Madison Square Garden.
The Spartans were originally scheduled to face Rutgers at MSG during the 2020-21 season, but the game was pushed back due to the pandemic.
With the number of challenges playing at the Rutgers Athletic Center, or RAC, brings – Izzo is looking forward to facing the Scarlet Knights in the entertainment hub located in Manhattan.
“Would I rather be playing at the Garden than the RAC? Yeah, I would rather be playing at the Garden than the RAC for two reasons,” Izzo said “Number one, the RAC is a tough place to play. We all know that. Number two, I think the Garden is an exciting place to play for college athletes. I think everybody wants to play there.”
A larger venue makes for more fans, and Izzo has no doubt Spartans will pile in the arena on Saturday afternoon.
“I bet you we’ll have 4-5,000 fans there.” Izzo said. “Michigan State will draw them well.”
In terms of the Big Ten tournament, the title is looking promising for the Boilermakers.
“I don’t know if anybody’s going to catch Purdue at all,” Izzo said.
With the unprecedented parity in the conference this year, MSU finds itself bunched together in the standings with nine other teams.
“We’re only one game out of second in the loss column,” Izzo said. “Unfortunately, we’re only one game out of 11th. I’ve never ever in my life seen the league like this. It’s an amazing deal.”
What does Izzo need, if the Spartans want to secure a top four spot in the tournament?
First, he needs more from senior guard Tyson Walker.
The veteran guard has led the charge for the Spartans this season, but isn’t quite where Izzo wants him to be at this point in terms of aggressiveness.
“We need him to do a little more, we need him to score a few more points,” Izzo said.
Having senior forward Malik Hall close to full strength will provide MSU's offense with necessary skill against a top defensive team in the league.
“I’m happy to say that Malik has made some more significant progress, where he will practice fully today,” Izzo said.
Michigan State looks to sweep Rutgers on Saturday afternoon with tipoff set for noon.
“It’s going to be a hard fought battle, we’re in their backyard,” junior guard A.J. Hoggard said. “There’s going to be a lot of red in there. We’ve just got to come in there with our hard hats and be ready to work.”