Florida Gulf Coast (0-0) at (2) Michigan State (0-0)
Friday, November 13th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Breslin Center (14,759) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: ESPN360.com. Home Record: FGCU 0-0, MSU 0-0. Away Record: FGCU 0-0, MSU 0-0. Neutral Record: FGCU 0-0, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: FGCU 0-0, MSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast swoop into the Breslin Center to challenge the second-ranked Michigan State Spartans in the 2009-10 season opener for both teams.
FGCU is coached by Dave Balza, and the Eagles went 11-20 last season, which included a 7-13 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play. Expectations are a bit higher this season, although Balza's club is clearly overmatched in this contest. The second-ranked Spartans are the highest ranked opponent Florida Gulf Coast has ever faced.
Tom Izzo's Michigan State squad is coming off a year in which it won its first Big Ten title since taking four straight from 1998-2001, and the Spartans reached their fifth Final Four in 11 seasons by combining efficient offensive production with stellar defensive play. The campaign ended on a down note as MSU fell to North Carolina in the National Championship Game, but it was certainly a banner year for the Spartans and their frenzied fan base. Michigan State, which enters this campaign with its highest preseason ranking ever, has won 32 straight home openers.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between FGCU and MSU on the hardwood.
The Eagles lost all 14 of their road games in 2008-09, but with a year of experience and four starters back in the fold they should be improved in all facets this time around. Coach Balza will once again rely on Reed Baker to provide much of the scoring, as the 6-1 guard led the team with 13.4 ppg as a sophomore last season. Reggie Chambers showed potential as a freshman last year, averaging 8.6 points and 2.8 assists per outing, and he figures to be even more productive in 2009-10. In the frontcourt, Kyle Marks and Derrick O'Neil are back after combining for 18.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per game a season ago. Transfer Charlie Lytle is another guy to keep an eye on in the FGCU frontcourt.
While two of the team's more productive guys (Goran Sutton and Travis Walton) have moved on, the overall talent level of this year's club has coach Izzo and the MSU faithful thinking another banner year awaits. Start with PG Kalin Lucas (14.7 ppg, 4.6 apg), who is one of the better floor generals in the country. Add senior forward Raymar Morgan (10.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and junior guards Durrell Summers (8.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Chris Allen (8.4 ppg) to the mix and Michigan State will be a dangerous team to deal with throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Izzo brought in a couple of wide bodies in Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman, but both will likely be asked to provide solid defense in the low post rather than take on a significant scoring role, at least early on. One guy to keep an eye on is 7-0 junior Tom Herzog, who if he develops quickly could become one of the better frontcourt players in the Big Ten.
This game should serve as little more than a tune-up for what promises to be a challenging and exciting season for the Spartans. The home crowd will be all smiles as MSU scores early and often en route to an easy, season-opening victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 88, Florida Gulf Coast 56
11/13 10:36:07 ET