The Big Ten Conference office announced the 2008-09 men's basketball schedule on Wednesday morning. Michigan State will face a slate that includes 10 teams that played in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, including defending National Champion Kansas. In total, 15 Spartan opponents played in the 2008 postseason. Highlights of the non-conference schedule include the Jan. 10 home game against Kansas, neutral-site games against Final Four participant North Carolina at Detroit's Ford Field and Elite Eight participant Texas in Houston, and a spot in the 2008 Old Spice Classic, which features four other NCAA Tournament teams. For the second straight year, the Spartans will play an 18-game Big Ten schedule, with single games against Wisconsin (home) and Michigan (road).
"This promises to be one of the most exciting schedules in recent years and certainly stacks up against any other schedule in the nation," said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. "In the non-conference, we are looking forward to playing Kansas in the Breslin Center, as I've always wanted to bring the top programs from across the country to our fans in Michigan and East Lansing. We are equally excited to have another opportunity to play North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit.
"Playing in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving weekend will give us an early measuring stick for our team against one of the best early season tournament fields in the country. To open with Maryland, follow with Gonzaga or Oklahoma State, and then possibly meet Tennessee or Georgetown or quality teams like Siena or Wichita State in the final round, we are looking at a tournament with three tough games. Our recent games against Texas have all been extremely competitive and I expect nothing different when we travel to Houston. It's a non-conference schedule that could feature as many as six ranked opponents, while also playing a mixture of games in front of Spartans fans, true neutral sites and games in hostile environments.
"I think the Big Ten will continue to improve. Several of the top players from last season throughout the conference return to their teams, and with so many new coaches last year now in their second season, I think we are in store for a very competitive 18-game conference season, where the conference race will likely come down to the final week of the regular season."
All 18 Big Ten games will be televised by a national television network, including one on CBS, four on ESPN, one on ESPN2, six on the Big Ten Network, one on ESPN or ESPN2, one on ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network and three on CBS, ESPN or the Big Ten Network. Start times and television coverage for most non-conference games will be announced at a later date.
Michigan State will open the 2008-09 season at home against Idaho on Sunday, Nov. 16. Following a road trip to IPFW on Nov. 19, the Spartans will travel to Orlando, Fla., for the 2008 Old Spice Classic, which features one of the top fields of any early season tournament. Seven of the eight teams in the field participated in the 2008 postseason, including NCAA Tournament squads Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Siena and Tennessee and NIT teams Maryland and Oklahoma State. The Spartans will open the tournament on Thanksgiving (Nov. 27), with a 7 p.m. contest against Maryland on ESPN2. The winner will play the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State winner on Nov. 28. Following an off day on Saturday, the championship round will be played on Sunday, Nov. 30. Every game of the Classic will be televised by ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
A stiff test awaits following Michigan State's trip to Disneyworld as the Spartans will play North Carolina on Dec. 3 at Detroit's Ford Field, site of the 2009 Final Four. The Tar Heels are an early pick for the No. 1 team in the polls as they return all five starters and top six scorers from a team that posted a 36-3 record and advanced to the 2008 Final Four. This will be MSU's second game at Ford Field, as the Spartans hosted Kentucky on Dec. 13, 2003 in front of a world-record crowd of 78,129. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster locations and ticketmaster.com.
The Spartans follow with a three-game homestand against Bradley (Dec. 7), Alcorn State (Dec. 13) and The Citadel (Dec. 17). On Dec. 20, Michigan State will play Texas at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Last season, the Spartans handed the Longhorns their first loss of the season with a 78-72 win at The Palace of Auburn Hills. In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Texas advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to national finalist Memphis, one game after the Tigers defeated Michigan State. The final game of MSU's early non-conference schedule features the Spartans playing Oakland at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Dec. 27.
Big Ten Conference play opens with Michigan State at Minnesota on New Year's Eve at 6 p.m. This will be the first conference game the Spartans have played in December since a 74-57 win at Purdue on Dec. 30, 1997. For the third time in four seasons, MSU will open conference play with back-to-back road games as the Spartans travel to Northwestern on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. Both the Minnesota and Northwestern games will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Michigan State's Big Ten home opener brings Ohio State into the Breslin Center on Jan. 6 for a 7 p.m. telecast on ESPN2. Five days later, Kansas comes to East Lansing on Jan. 10 for the final non-conference game of the season. The Spartans and Jayhawks have not met since the two teams played in Lawrence on Nov. 25, 2003.
On Jan. 14, MSU travels to Penn State for a 6:30 p.m. contest on the Big Ten Network. A two-game homestand follows with league games against Illinois on Jan. 17 (4 p.m., ESPN) and Northwestern on Jan. 21 (6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). The Spartans take to the road for two more games against Ohio State on Jan. 25 (3:45 p.m., CBS) and Iowa on Jan. 29 (7 p.m., ESPN/ESPN2).
February opens with Michigan State's longest conference homestand. Penn State comes to East Lansing on Feb. 1 (12 p.m., Big Ten Network), followed by Minnesota on Feb. 4 (8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) and Indiana on Feb. 7 (4 p.m., ESPN). The game against the Hoosiers will feature the first meeting between Izzo and former assistant Tom Crean since he took over the IU program. The lone meeting between in-state rivals Michigan State and Michigan will take place on Feb. 10 in Ann Arbor (7 p.m., ESPN). This is a flip-flop of last year when the two teams only met in East Lansing, with MSU defeating the Wolverines, 77-62. In a game between possible Big Ten title contenders, the Spartans play at Purdue on Feb. 17 (7 p.m., ESPN). Wisconsin and Michigan State also will meet only once this season on Feb. 22. An official date and start time will be announced no later than Feb. 1. On Feb. 25, Michigan State hosts Iowa at 8:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network), followed by a road game at Illinois on Feb. 28 or March 1, depending on television selections to be made no later than Feb. 16.
In the final week of the season, the Spartans will play both teams from the Hoosier state. In a mid-week contest, MSU will travel to Bloomington, Ind. for a game on March 3, 4 or 5 depending on a television decision to be made no later than Feb. 2. Michigan State will close out the regular season at home against Purdue on March 7 or 8. The tip time and television network will be announced by Feb. 23.
The 12th annual Big Ten Tournament will run from March 12-15 in Indianapolis. The 2009 NCAA Tournament opens March 19, concluding with the Final Four at Detroit's Ford Field on April 4 and 6.