Add to Calendar
Skip to main content Skip to footer

Spartans Open Season vs. Arizona in Armed Forces Classic

Nov. 8, 2016

#12/9 Michigan State (0-0) vs. #10/11 Arizona (0-0)
Date Friday, November 11, 2016
Time 7 p.m. ET
Location Honolulu, Hawaii | Stan Sheriff Center | Armed Forces Classic
Television ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Molly McGrath)
Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman and Matt Steigenga)
Game Notes Michigan State | Arizona
Statistics Michigan State | Arizona
Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook | Instagram

The Opening Tip
Michigan State opens the 2016-17 season against Arizona in the 2016 Armed Forces Classic in Hawaii. The Spartans played in the initial Armed Forces Classic in 2012 in Germany. This is the first game in what could arguably be called the toughest month to open a season in college basketball history given the quality of MSU’s opponents and the miles traveled.

The Starting Five
1. For Openers                                  
Michigan State is 93-24 all-time in openers, winning 36 of the last 39. The only three losses in the last 39 years came in 2012 to Connecticut in the Armed Forces Classic in Germany, to No. 1 North Carolina in the 2011 Carrier Classic, on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in Coronado, Calif., and in November 2005, when MSU fell at Hawai’i, 84-62. Prior to that, the Spartans’ last loss in an opener came on Nov. 29, 1976, when they fell to Central Michigan, 81-76. Tom Izzo is 18-3 in season openers.

2. The Nation’s Toughest November                      
Michigan State begins the 2016-17 season with arguably the toughest opening month in college basketball history, certainly Spartan history. With games scheduled against consensus No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 10 Arizona and a potential matchup against No. 13 Louisville, Michigan State could face four Top 15 squads in November alone. The Spartans have never faced three Top 15 opponents in November, and have never played four Top 15 opponents in any month during the regular season.

3. Frequent Flier Miles                             
Not only will the Spartans play a diabolical slate of opponents, they will face a brutal travel schedule to open the season. Beginning with a flight to Hawaii on November 8 and ending with the return flight from Duke on Nov. 29, the Spartans will travel more than 13,600 miles in 22 days, including additional trips to New York City and the Bahamas.

4. Hall of Famer Tom Izzo                            
Now in his 22nd season at Michigan State, Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo has built the Spartans into one of the elite programs in the nation. MSU is the only school in the country to win 27 or more games in each of the last five seasons. The Spartans’ 19 straight NCAA Tournaments are a Big Ten record, the third-longest active streak in the nation and the fourth-longest active streak of all time. He’s been able to accomplish this while playing more ranked teams than anyone else since 1998. Michigan State has appeared in a nation’s best seven Final Fours in the last 18 seasons. Izzo’s seven Final Four trips are tied for fifth most in NCAA history.

5. MSU On The Islands                            
Michigan State has an all-time record of 14-8 in Hawaii. The Spartans won the 1998 Pearl Harbor Classic in Laie and the 1991 Maui Invitational. MSU also participated in the 1965 (2-1) and 1981 (1-2) Rainbow Classics and the 1995 (1-2), 2005 (2-1) and 2010 (2-1) Maui Invitationals, in addition to losing at Hawaii in the 2005-06 opener.

MSU vs. Arizona Notes
Series History                                 
Michigan State and Arizona have met six times prior to this meeting, with Arizona owning a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series. The Spartans have won each of the last two games vs. the Wildcats and are 2-2 vs. Arizona under Tom Izzo.

Coach Miller                                 
Sean Miller (Pittsburgh ‘92) is 308-108 (.740) in his 13th year as a head coach, including a 188-61 (.755) mark in his eighth season at Arizona. Prior to Arizona, Miller was the head coach of Xavier from 2004-2009 and spent time as an assistant at Miami (OH), Pittsburgh, NC State and Xavier.

The Last Meeting                              
No. 12 Michigan State defeated No. 9 Arizona, 74-71, in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 23, 2005. Paul Davis made two free throws with 30 seconds left to tie it and send it to overtime. Shannon Brown had 19 points and gave the Spartans the lead for good at 70-68 with a jumper with 35 seconds left. After Arizona freshman Marcus Williams missed two free throws with 8.5 seconds left, Davis hit two more free throws with 5.8 seconds left to make it 72-68. Arizona’s Chris Rodgers hit a 3-pointer with a second left and immediately called a timeout. The Wildcats didn’t have one left, so a technical foul was charged and Maurice Ager made two free throws for the final margin.

Wildcat Notes                                 
Arizona enters the season ranked 10th in the AP Poll and was picked to finish second in the PAC-12 Conference’s preseason media poll behind Oregon. The Wildcats finished third in the PAC-12 in 2016 before being knocked out of the tournament by Wichita State in the first round.  Arizona looks to replace more than half of its offensive production from last season after losing four seniors, but freshman and McDonald’s All-American Kobi Simmons highlights the incoming class. Arizona has won 92 games over the last three years, good for the third highest total in the nation.

MSU Basketball Notes
MSU’s Freshman Class                         
Michigan State’s freshman class of Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston was widely regarded as one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. They are expected to have an immediate impact on the Spartans in 2016-17. In fact, they have the potential to go down as the most productive freshman class under Tom Izzo. The 2001-02 Spartan freshmen of Alan Anderson, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Aaron Alexander combined to average 77.4 minutes and 26.5 points, both of which rank first in the Izzo era. The 2002-03 freshmen (Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, Erazem Lorbek) averaged a combined 20.9 points, while 2012-13 freshmen (Matt Costello, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine and Trevor Bohnhoff) averaged 19.7 points. Although Langford missed both exhibition games due to injury, the trio of Bridges, Ward and Winston combined to averaged 52.5 points in three exhibition contests.

Outside The Box                                 
Being a part of a unique event is nothing new to Michigan State. On Oct. 6, 2001, MSU hosted Michigan in “The Cold War,” the first college hockey game to be played outside in a football stadium. Since then, the tradition has been adopted by the NHL and college hockey teams across the country. On Dec. 13, 2003, MSU played Kentucky in “The BasketBowl” at Ford Field in Detroit in front of a then world-record crowd of 78,129, and still the largest crowd ever to watch a college basketball game. Five years later, when the Final Four was played in Detroit, the court was placed in the center of the football stadium rather than in a corner, as had previously been the case. Both the Cold War and BasketBowl were envisioned by current MSU athletics director Mark Hollis, who also provided the vision for the Carrier Classic, which saw Michigan State play North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011. One year later, MSU played in the inaugural Armed Forces Classic in Germany. On the horizon, MSU will be one of 16 teams to participate in the PK80 – Phil Knight Invitational. The 16-team, early-season men’s college basketball tournament will honor Nike co-founder and 2012 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Phil Knight in advance of his 80th birthday. Hollis also continues to move forward with the idea of playing USC (Spartans vs. Trojans) in Greece.  

Carrier Classic Recap                            
Michigan State played No. 1 North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2011, in front of a crowd of 8,111, including President Barack Obama and active US servicemen and women and Wounded Warriors. Harrison Barnes led all scorers with 17 points for the Tar Heels, while Draymond Green paced the Spartans with 13 points and 18 rebounds. MSU out-rebounded UNC, 49-34, but the Spartans shot just 30.6 percent from the field, compared to 47.1 percent for the Tar Heels, who claimed a 67-55 victory. Although Michigan State opened the 2011-12 season 0-2, the Spartans would go on to win 15 straight games, capture the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Armed Forces Recap                              
Michigan State played Connecticut in the inaugural Armed Forces Classic on Nov. 9, 2012 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Spartans stayed on the air base and had the opportunity to conduct a clinic for the children of military families, visit a military hospital and fly in a C-130 transport plane. Connecticut won the game, 66-62, behind 25 points from Shabazz Napier. Keith Appling led MSU with 17 points.

Izzo In Kuwait                                 
One of the events that motivated Coach Izzo to play in events like the Armed Forces Classic and the Carrier Classic was an experience he had visiting US military in Kuwait. In the summer of 2005, Izzo traveled to Kuwait to take part in “Operation Hardwood - Hoops With the Troops.” Izzo was one of eight coaches and sports personalities coaching 13-member military basketball teams on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Camp Arifjan defeated the other bases to win the championship under the direction of Coach Izzo. One of the highlights of the trip was the military fatigues the coaches were presented (including name) prior to the championship game. The event was so moving for Izzo that he made a return trip in May 2006.

Exhibition Recap                             
Michigan State averaged 90.0 points in a pair of exhibition victories. Miles Bridges led all scorers at 26.5 points per game, shooting .704 (19-27) from the field and .778 (7-9) from 3-point range. Cassius Winston averaged 13.5 points and 7.5 assists, while Nick Ward averaged 12.5 points. As a team, MSU shot .550 from the field, including .455 from 3-point range.  

Spartans Share The Ball                             
Unselfishness is a trademark of all Tom Izzo teams. That has been especially true over the last three seasons as MSU has established a school record for assists in each of the last three years. Last season, MSU tallied a school record 719 assists, good for the 22nd-best total in NCAA history. MSU’s nation’s-best assist average of 20.5 was the 23rd-best average in NCAA history. The Spartans recorded an assist on a nation’s-best 71.3 percent of its field goals. In 2014-15, MSU totaled 646 assists (16.6 apg), after recording 637 (16.8 apg) in 2013-14. In two exhibition games, MSU averaged 19.0 assists, led by freshman Cassius Winston at 7.5 apg.

From Beyond the Arc                                
The 2015-16 Spartans led the nation in 3-point field goal percentage and made a school record 321 3-pointers. While this year’s Spartan squad must replace Bryn Forbes (112) and Denzel Valentine (104) who combined for 216 3-pointers last season, MSU did shoot .455 in two exhibition contests, led by Miles Bridges (7-9). Cassius Winston (2-4), Matt McQuaid (2-6) and Eron Harris (2-7) all averaged one made 3-pointer per contest. Last season, Harris shot .439 (43-98) from behind the arc, while Matt McQuaid hit .409 (27-66) of his attempts.

MSU In November                             
Michigan State has an all-time record of 121-31 in games played in the month of November. This includes an 80-3 mark at home. The last team to beat MSU at home in November was a David Robinson-led Navy squad that bested the Spartans, 91-90, in overtime on Nov. 29, 1986. Tom Izzo is 58-0 all-time at home in November, 86-25 for the month.

Bridges’ Preseason Honors                            
Freshman Miles Bridges is yet to play an official game at Michigan State, but he is already gathering some national attention. The Flint, Michigan, native was also tabbed preseason Second Team All-America by The Sporting News, while also landing a spot on the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.  

Spartans In The NBA                           
Michigan State had a Big Ten-best eight players on NBA opening day rosters, including Denzel Valentine (Bulls), Gary Harris (Nuggets), Deyonta Davis (Grizzlies), Bryn Forbes (Spurs), Draymond Green (Warriors), Adreian Payne (Timberwolves), Zach Randolph (Grizzlies) and Alan Anderson (Clippers).

Harris Tops Spartan Returners                         
Senior Eron Harris is Michigan State’s leading returning scorer at 9.3 points per game. He is the only returning Spartan to have started a game last February or March. In the four games Denzel Valentine missed due to injury last season, Harris averaged 17.8 points. He has been named to the Jerry West Award Watch List, presented to the top shooting guard in the nation. As a sophomore at West Virginia in 2013-14, Harris averaged 17.2 points.

Playing The Best                                
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State’s first of 19 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 205 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (192), Texas (186), Duke (180), Illinois (175), Kentucky (174) and Michigan (173).

Strength of Schedule                                
In total, the 2016-17 schedule features 15 teams that appeared in the 2016 postseason, including 11 opponents that played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Big Ten Schedule                             
With a 14-team conference each Big Ten team will play five schools twice, four schools on the road, and four schools at home. Michigan State will go home and home with Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue. The Spartans will host Iowa, Northwestern, Rutgers and Wisconsin, while traveling to Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State. Seven of Michigan State’s 13 Big Ten opponents appeared in the 2016 postseason, including six in the NCAA Tournament (Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin) and one in the NIT (Ohio State).

Spartans In The Polls                             
Michigan State opens the season ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Spartans are one of five Big Ten teams to be ranked in the polls, joining Wisconsin (No. 9 AP/ No. 10 USA Today), Indiana (11/12), Purdue (15/15) and Maryland (25/21). In addition to the conference opponents, MSU is also scheduled to play Duke (1/1), Kentucky (2/4) and Arizona (10/11) in November and could possibly meet Louisville (13/14) in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Coaching Stability                             
Michigan State has had just two basketball coaches in the last 41 seasons and three in the last 48. Tom Izzo is in his 22nd season, having taking over from his mentor Jud Heathcote, who spent 19 years as head coach (1976-95). Before Heathcote, Gus Ganakas spent seven seasons as head coach. Ganakas is currently in his 31st-straight season providing commentary on Spartan radio broadcasts.

Backcourt Experience                             
Michigan State’s backcourt is its most experienced unit with seniors Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis III, junior Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. and sophomore Matt McQuaid all having played significant minutes during their career. Harris, Nairn and Ellis have a combined 60 career starts at MSU, including 41 last year. It will also receive an influx of talent from 2016 McDonald’s All-American Joshua Langford and 2016 Michigan Mr. Basketball winner Cassius Winston, providing MSU with one of the deeper backcourts in the nation.

Nation’s Best Seven Final Fours in 17 Years                 
Michigan State advanced to the 2015 Final Four, marking the seventh trip to the Final Four in 20 seasons under Tom Izzo. The seven trips in the last 18 seasons rank as the most in the nation. In addition, MSU has appeared in 19 straight NCAA Tournaments, marking the nation’s third-longest active streak, and the longest streak in Big Ten history.

Breslin Upgrades on the Horizon                            
A major facilities upgrade – focused on improving the visitor experience – is on tap for the Breslin Student Events Center. The Breslin Center addition -- in all a $20 million project -- involves construction of a new box office, the Tom Izzo Hall of History and, for the student-athletes and coaches of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the addition of the Draymond Green Strength and Conditioning Center, a hydration station, lounges for players and recruits, and an alumni locker room. The work began in January 2016, with substantial completion expected by August of 2017 and final completion by June 2018.

The Book On Tom Izzo
Coach Izzo
In his 22nd year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, ’77) is 524-205 (.719), and 246-112 (.687) in the Big Ten, as the head coach of the Michigan State basketball program. He ranks as the winningest coach in Michigan State history, having passed his mentor Jud Heathcote with his 341st career victory on Nov. 28, 2009. In his 21 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has captured eight National Coach of the Year awards, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001 and 2012. In 1999, Izzo was named National Coach of the Year by Basketball Times, while earning similar honors from The Associated Press, Basketball News and the USBWA in ’98. He also earned National Coach of the Year accolades from in 2012. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012. Izzo was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 9, 2016, cementing his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.

Among The Big Ten’s Best
Tom Izzo’s .687 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan (.717), and former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Ohio State’s Thad Matta ranks first at .748, followed by Ryan (.737), Knight (.734), Izzo (.719), Wisconsin’s Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 246 conference victories, Izzo ranks third all time.

Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 21 seasons, Tom Izzo won 524 games, ranking fifth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 21 years.

Final Fours
Tom Izzo led MSU to seven Final Four appearances between 1999 and 2015, becoming just the fourth school in college basketball history to do it in any 17-year span, including just the third since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Izzo’s seven Final Fours are the most by any coach since his first season in 1996 and he ranks fifth all-time, including tied for fifth among active coaches. The seven Final Fours are also the most by any Big Ten coach.



Partners & Sponsors