Spartan Basketball Teams Host MSU Madness on Homecoming Weekend
Sold-Out Crowd Packs Breslin Center to Tip off Basketball Season
East Lansing, Mich. - Just hours after the dedication to the renovations at the Breslin Center, including the Izzo Hall of History, the Michigan State men's and women's basketball teams were featured in the annual MSU Madness.
A capacity crowd of fans packed the Breslin Center for a chance to see the 2017-18 teams, capping the night off with scrimmages by both squads.
The festivities began earlier in the afternoon with the official dedication of the Gilbert Pavilion and the Izzo Hall of History. Doors to the Breslin Center opened at 8:30 p.m. and fans lined up to get the new team posters. Players and coaches for both teams were available for autographs and pictures before the MSU Madness schedule started an hour later.
Led by DJ QuickSilva, the night began with performances from the MSU Drumline, dance team and cheerleaders and the Spartan Marching Band.
The 2017-18 Michigan State women's basketball team was announced first with glow-in-the-dark sweatshirts. All 14 players entered to their own theme music with their names written in the street art style. Head coach Suzy Merchant then entered with a glow-in-the-dark ball, accompanied by her sons Tyler and Brady. Merchant introduced three of her graduate assistants, who are all former players, Kalisha Keane, Jasmine Hines and Annalise Pickrel, along with longtime-fan Stephanie Russell.
"This group is special. I'm excited for them to play in front of you today. My senior class has 19 years of experience between all of them. That's a lot of years. We have great point guard play, great swingmen. We have a great recruiting class and an incoming freshman class, so we're excited to put them in front of you," Merchant told the crowd. "I just personally want to take a minute, and say thank you to the best fans in the world. One thing I want to say about this place that makes being a women's basketball coach here and makes being a women's basketball player here so special is that you guys care about women's basketball here at Michigan State. We're number one in the Big Ten and in the top 10 in attendance every year, so we appreciate you all very, very much. We're looking forward to an amazing season. Go Green!
"I coach at this amazing place, Michigan State. One of the things that we love so much, is this night. We love this night because we appreciate the Spartan Nation so much, and what you guys do for each and every one of our teams, certainly basketball. I started my day, you guys will appreciate this, my boys started this morning when they woke up with `Happy Michigan State Madness, Mom', so this is actually better than Christmas for us. We want to say thank you to all of you," Merchant said. "I do want to say thank you to our Spartan Nation. The theme of Homecoming this year is Spartans for life."
The men's basketball team came through the backstage and entered wearing customized t-shirts with caricatures of each player. The caricatures of each player were done by former Spartan Adam Ballinger, who worked with each player to choose their own alter-ego. Head coach Tom Izzo came to the stage with his family and a Tom Izzo Big Head, which stood 9-feet, 6-inches.
"When I look out and I see the greatest pep band down at that end, the greatest cheerleaders and dance team on this end and I see the greatest fans," Izzo said. "You've got to remember now, 5-6 years ago, my whole dream was to someday fill this place. The past 5-6 years we've been packing it, but tonight, we've got an overflow crowd. I'd like to thank all of you for that too.
"I know one thing, I feel really good about my basketball team this year. The reason I feel really good, is other than Nick (Ward) and Cassius (Winston), I've got a bunch of guys who can't dance. They must be working on their game every day...I guess I should be happy because they've been in the gym working on their game. All I can say, we've opened up a lot of this facility. It's one of the neatest things I've ever seen in college sports, period.
"As of the second game of the year, everybody knows we play Duke the second game of the year in Chicago. For the first time, in not only the history of College Basketball, but the polls came out and had Duke 1, Michigan State 2, Kansas 3 and Kentucky 4, those four teams will be playing in Chicago. The first time in history, never in Final Fours, in anything else. The reason that's important to me, that's what I want you to think about for these guys and why they came here, and anyone out there and why they would come here. It's because we're going to play the best people, we're going to have the best facilities, we've got the best bands, fans, cheerleaders and dance team."
The evening concluded with both teams showing off their skills in scrimmages with running clocks.
The men's team will host a pair of exhibitions against Ferris State (Oct. 26) and Hillsdale (Nov. 3). The women's team opens with an exhibition against Lake Superior State (Nov. 5).