There are a few days off for MSU men’s baskets.
After a packed week that began with the Champions Classic and ended with the Gavitt Games on Friday, Michigan State will take on No. 18 Alabama on Thursday in Game 1 and Quarterfinals of the Phil Knight Invitational to Portland, Ore.
The Spartans also play on Friday and Sunday. They will play either Connecticut or Oregon on Friday, with their Sunday opponent depending on the outcome of the tournament.
Michigan State used the past week to quell skepticism about its shortened rotation with back-to-back wins over Kentucky and Villanova on Tuesday and Friday.
Junior center Mady Sissoko took over against Kentucky and took senior center Oscar Tshiebwe by storm.
Junior guard AJ Hoggard was missing two rebounds to a triple-double in Friday’s showdown against Villanova with 13 points and 10 assists. Hoggard was accompanied by an impressive performance from senior guard Tyson Walker, who led with 22 points, five assists and three rebounds.
The green-whites will take momentum to Portland after jumping from unrated to 12th in Monday afternoon’s AP Top 25 poll.
“We don’t want to take ourselves too high,” said senior striker Malik Hall. “We should now be even more focused. It puts the target on our backs. We started out as underdogs and now we’re not so much underdogs in some of these games. It’s going to be something that we focus on and need to focus on to make sure we’re ready.
Alabama is currently 4-0 after wins over Longwood, Liberty, South Alabama and Jacksonville State. The Crimson Tide have defeated every opponent by at least 10 points.
Head coach Tom Izzo said in his Monday morning press conference that Alabama’s team couldn’t be more different than MSU’s. The Spartans’ preparation for the Invitational was different than in the past because of Alabama’s size, particularly its length.
“This is a very different team than we’ve seen in our league,” Izzo said.
Izzo said that Alabama head coach Nate Oats’ team is defensively dominant and takes shots from beyond the arc.
Alabama scored 45.7% from three hits in its last game against Jacksonville State and is first in the country averaging 56.0 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Jahvon Quinerly was due to miss recovering from a cruciate ligament rupture but has appeared in Alabama’s last two games. Quinerly joined from Villanova after his freshman year. Izzo expects Quinerly to start at the top on Thursday.
Another standout player is freshman forward Brandon Miller. Miller was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday. The freshman has started in all four games for the Crimson Tide this season and leads Alabama with an average of 20.3 points per game.
Junior Guard Mark Sears is another name to keep an eye on. He starts in all four games and plays at least 28 minutes in each matchup.
MSU is one of eight men’s basketball programs participating in the three-day series. The event will be held at various locations throughout Portland and will be televised on ESPN.
Graduate forward Joey Hauser said the last two wins tended to build confidence going into the weekend.
“It’s going to be a great event,” said Hauser. “We just have to soak it up and enjoy the moment.”
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