There's no way to sugar coat it -- Michigan State went 0-3 in opportunities to pick up significant non-conference wins, and will have to wait until the Big Ten season to pick up a significant win. In the meantime though, the Spartans will spend more than a month in East Lansing, the longest homestand MSU has had since the 1942 season.
In that time MSU will face five non-conference opponents, of which the two most significant are Oakland and Eastern Michigan (KenPom #218 and #141 respectively), and Maryland and Indiana to start the conference season. Needless to say, the next few weeks will be less about building a tournament resume and more about preparing for the Big Ten season.
As for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, I could write 300 to 400 words about what to watch for on offense, how they might stymie Michigan State on defense, but I'm not going to waste your time: Arkansas-Pine Bluff is 1-6 this season, their only win this season is against #287 in KenPom Cal-State Bakersfield. The Golden Lions haven't played a game at home this season, and will not until 2015.
Clearly, the Golden Lions are being whored out to fund the ol' Arkansas-Pine Bluff athletic apartment. Michigan State needed a non-conference opponent, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, like many low-major basketball teams, needs the money to fund its athletics.
I'm struggling to figure out how I should complete this preview of an obviously overmatched team. I know I, along with a lot of you, was frustrated with how the Notre Dame game ended last Wednesday. It sucks that MSU won't have a significant non-conference on their resume this season. They will have to go 9-9 in the Big Ten to make the NCAA tournament this season, a feat that seems eminent given that Michigan State hasn't missed the tourney since 1997.
So why watch tomorrow? One, because it's going to be fun. Sure, what happens tomorrow won't be any sort of preview as to how the rest of the season will go, but it's always exciting to see an exciting Spartan squad (especially after the games of past week), so that'll be something to watch, especially at 2:15 Eastern when there won't be any significant college football games to distract.
Second, because the number of college basketball (not to mention football) games this season is finite. The summer can be a struggle at times without games to watch during the weekend. MSU will play about 30 more games this season, and while that seems like a lot, by April they'll be all over, and we'll have to wait seven months to see more.
This game is filler. It's just another number in the win column the Spartans will need on the way to making the NCAA Tournament come March. Still, there's always the chance for excitement, and we'll most likely see the Spartans excel. We have about 60 more hours of MSU basketball this season, and even though the next few hours will be against inferior competition, the ephemeral nature of the sport makes it worth your time from 2:15 to 4:15 on Saturday.