After practice on Tuesday, head coach Tom Izzo and some Michigan State men’s basketball players were made available to the media to discuss MSU’s next game against No. 2 Gonzaga — the Armed Forces Classic event played on a Navy ship in San Diego Bay.
After the Spartans’ 73-55 victory over Northern Arizona on Monday, Izzo had time to watch some of Gonzaga’s game. The Bulldogs defeated North Florida 104-63 in their opening game of the season.
“They’re the best fast-breaking team I’ve seen in a while,” Izzo said about Gonzaga. “They get it up and go.”
Gonzaga center Drew Timme scored 22 points in Gonzaga’s opening game. Last season, he averaged 18 points and just under seven rebounds per game.
“(Drew) Timme is exactly what they said,” Izzo said. “He’s probably the best center in college basketball.”
The game against Gonzaga on Friday will be played on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. The court will be on the deck of the ship, which of course means that the contest will be played outside.
“This is a unique environment,” senior guard Tyson Walker said.
Walker has has relatives who have served in the military, including his grandfather, who was in the Army, and his brother-in-law, who served for the Marines Corps.
Walker said that this game means “a little something” to him.
Junior guard A.J. Hoggard says that the change in environment from inside to outside won’t really affect him at all.
“Just being used to playing outside, growing up playing at the park, it shouldn’t really affect me at all,” Hoggard said.
Hoggard remembered watching Michigan State’s first game that was played on an aircraft carrier back in 2011 against legendary head coach Roy Williams and his North Carolina Tar Heels.
“Just to get the opportunity to come full circle means a lot,” Hoggard said. “I’m super ready to get out there and handle business.”
Izzo senses that his team is excited to play against one of the top teams in the country.
“I do think they’re excited,” Izzo said. “The opportunity to play the No. 2 ranked team in the country…anytime you get to do that, that’s a great experience, too.”
Izzo also noted that the next few weeks will be both a mental and physical grind with all the tough opponents the Spartans have coming up. Michigan State’s next four opponents — Gonzaga, Kentucky, Villanova and Alabama — are all currently ranked in the top-25 by the Associated Press.
Michigan State tips off against Gonzaga on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will be played in San Diego, California. and it will be broadcasted on ESPN.