Boston College-Michigan St. Preview
Michigan State has more than four months before it can claim the main title it wants, but the Spartans can start learning how to win championships this week.
The third-ranked Spartans hope to continue building their early-season resume Thursday night while giving their coach his 500th win when they open the Wooden Legacy tournament against Boston College.
The Spartans have set their focus on wringing out experience from each game, whether it's similar to their tight 79-73 victory over the Jayhawks or the other three won by an average of 32.3 points.
Their next maturation process will come from the Wooden Legacy, an eight-team bracket featuring No. 11 Arizona on the other side. The opening two days are played at Cal State Fullerton, while games on Saturday and Sunday move to the Honda Center in Anaheim.
"We better be ready to play out there, and hopefully we can bring home a championship," coach Tom Izzo said. "That's what you've got to learn do now, you've got to learn to win championships."
A victory in the opener would also net Izzo his 500th win.
''It's not sexy to me,'' he said. ''It's just another number.''
Izzo is busy trying to mold his team during his 21st season on Michigan State's sideline. The takeaway from Monday's 89-65 win over Eastern Michigan was that sluggish starts won't always end in a double-digit win.
The Spartans surrendered the opening four points to the Eagles of the Mid-American Conference and led by just two midway through the first half.
"That slow start, it can't happen against great teams or good teams," Denzel Valentine said. "The next thing you know you're going to be down 20 or something (while) away or on the road. We've just got to come out with a better start and play the whole 40 minutes."
Valentine is not far off from averaging a triple-double with 15.3 points, 9.8 assists and 9.0 rebounds, but forward Javon Bess supplied the spark the Spartans needed against Eastern Michigan. Bess scored nine of his 13 points in the first half and matched a season high with six rebounds.
Boston College (3-0) will try to win its first four games for the first time since opening the 2007-08 season with five straight victories.
The Eagles have won their three games over St. Francis Brooklyn, Central Connecticut State and Harvard by an average of 21.3 points, but they were tested during a 69-56 victory over the Crimson on Sunday.
Harvard led 20-16 at halftime as BC's top scorer Eli Carter missed all six of his shots. The senior guard hit two 3-pointers early in the second half, though, and the Eagles used a 12-2 run to take control.
''It's three games into the year,'' coach Jim Christian said. ''We've just got to get incrementally better. We've got to start to put 40 minutes together, especially with what we're staring at Thanksgiving Day. I'm not talking about the turkey, either.''
The Eagles have one win in their last 19 games against ranked opponents, a 62-59 upset of top-ranked Syracuse on Feb. 19, 2014.