The Michigan State university menâ€™s basketball team started their journey to Atlanta and kicked off 2012-2013 season Friday night with its annual midnight madness. As always, the most anticipated event of the night was the arrival of Coach Tom Izzo. In past years fans have witnessed Izzo arrive on a motorcycle, dressed as a hippie and an astronaut and last season he was a fighter pilot. Coach Izzo did not disappoint this year as he entered the Breslinas Iron Man or better yet Iron Mountain Man, all jets aflame! In fact it was an Avengers theme as Izzoâ€™s wife Lupe and his daughter Raquel dressed as Black Widow, and his son Stephen dressed as Captain America.
Often we hear about how fanatical the fans of programs such as Kentucky, Indiana and Duke are but I would put tonightâ€™s crowd up against any school. Fans were seen lining up as early as 5:00 even though doors did not open up till 9:30. Once the doors swung open fans swarmed into the building to get the best seats possible and autographs from their favorite Spartan player or coach. When the festivities begun the full house brought energy and noise during promotional events and as the cheerleaders and dance team performed.
The crowd erupted when coach Izzo entered the arena but sat quietly as he addressed the crowd. Entering the season the obvious question is who will replace Draymond Green. Speaking about this yearâ€™s team Izzo said â€œhe feels this yearâ€™s teams has a chance to be very, very, very goodâ€ and â€œthat this year I got a great team that is on a mission.â€
After Izzo, the biggest cheers were for the menâ€™s basketball team. The players came out dressed in their warm ups and were introduced using a song of their choice. The player who enjoyed the loudest cheers was hometown hero Denzel Valentine. Denzel did not disappoint his fans during the scrimmage as he showed he has a mean â€œswaggerâ€ to his game. I also must admit Denzel has a smile that will remind you of a former Spartan great who went on to star with the Lakers.
After watching the team during a short scrimmage one thing is clear, this team is loaded with talent and is deep. They have size inside with Derrick Nix, Matt Costello, Alex Gauna, and Adreian Payne. They have explosive and skilled wing players in Brandon Dawson, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine and Brandan Kearny. To round it up, they also have steady point guard play from Travis Trice and Keith Appling. It is no shock that Izzo is excited about the upcoming season.
I am sure many of you are wondering about Brandon Dawson, the kid looks like a monster. It is clear he took his rehab very serious and put in an extreme amount of work as he looks like he is in great physical shape and as always he was all smiles. During the brief scrimmage Dawson finished an ally- opp and blocked a lay- up attempt. These plays should comfort those who are concerned about his comeback from the injury suffered late last year.
There may be some unknowns to start the season but after interacting with the fans I get the sense that there is high optimism about the upcoming season. Without a doubt the talent is there it all comes down to leadership and finding an identity. One of the great aspects of college sports is watching a new set of players develop every two years or so. I feel confident with Tom Izzo at the helm that by the time March rolls around this team will develop into a final four contender. The journey to Atlanta has officially begun.