The lofty expectations for Michigan State’s women’s and men’s basketball teams were evident Friday Night at MSU Madness, the teams’ annual celebration preceding their respective seasons, as fans packed the Breslin Center to get a glimpse of both squads ahead of what has become a deliberately anticipated winter.
MSU’s Marching Band and Spirit Squad stirred up the energy in the building leading up to the main event, which started with the introduction of the women’s team.
MSU Madness Festivities
On costume night at the Breslin Center inspired by the date, Friday the 13th, freshman guard Bree Robinson kicked it off by coming out as Harley Quinn from The Suicide Squad. From there, the jam-packed night of entertainment began.
After the players were announced – each in a costume – head men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo and head women’s basketball coach Robyn Fralick stole the show, emerging on stage in Batman and Robin getups. To say the crowd was amused would be an understatement.
Speaking to “Spartan Nation” in the Breslin Center for the first time in her MSU tenure, Fralick thanked MSU fans for being “the best in the country.” A Lansing native, Fralick returns to her roots following a five-year stint at Bowling Green in which the Falcons underwent a program revival.
“It is so good to be home,” Fralick said during her speech.
Izzo followed with an earnest speech, pointing out the eight Final Four banners that the Spartans have raised since 1999. However, Izzo was more focused on the two National Championship flags swaying in the rafters, referencing his desire to hang a third.
“It’s not ‘win a championship or bust,’ but we’ve worked all summer because we think we’re one of eight or ten teams that has a legitimate chance to get the job done, and that’s going to be the goal of the year,” Izzo said.
The women’s team kicked off the on-court festivities with a scrimmage against their practice squad, showcasing its new style and pace of play under Fralick. The ball was flying around, never sticking for more than a few seconds.
MSU’s women’s squad, even in a scrimmage, showed its commitment to getting everyone involved and consistently making the correct pass or taking the right shot. Most of its points came off layups in transition, taking a page out of Izzo’s book.
To no surprise, graduate student guard Mo Joiner and sophomore guard DeeDee Hagemann seemed to have the most command over the offense, with the freedom to facilitate off the bounce but also to let it fly from long range.
A number of MSU’s underclassmen, specifically sophomore guards Abbey Kimball and Theryn Hallock along with Robinson, showed significant promise with their playmaking and touch. Hallock and Kimball each knocked down a three-pointer, and Robinson broke out an impressive finish at the rim.
This season is not necessarily a “prove-it” year for the women’s squad with a first-year head coach and a plethora of young, developing talent, but there’s no doubt that the Spartans have what it takes to make some noise come November.
The men’s group was as advertised, showing off their athleticism, both raw and developed, with countless high-flying dunks and alley-oops. Albeit in an intrasquad scrimmage, the Spartans showed why they’re considered a top team in the nation heading into the season.
Senior guard AJ Hoggard had a stretch where if he wasn’t finding a teammate at the rim for an easy finish, he was knocking down shots. In his first two years, Hoggard’s shooting inconsistencies helped defenses keep him at bay, but now, teams will likely be forced to challenge him around the perimeter. If so, it opens up a world of opportunities for MSU’s deep lineup.
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Freshman forwards Coen Carr and Xavier Booker lived around the rim, trading dunks while on the floor. Booker also knocked down a pair of threes. Sophomore forwards Carson Cooper and Jaxon Kohler showed their improved mobility and floor sense, with Cooper making a fallaway, left-handed skyhook look easy and Kohler nailing a 15-footer off a pump fake.
In just 10 minutes, the score read 52-43. Afterward, Izzo joked that the teams scored more points than MSU had in the past three years.
MSU’s women’s team opens up its regular season at home on Nov. 8 against Oakland, while the men kick off their highly-anticipated campaign on Nov. 6 against James Madison College at the Breslin Center.
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