Palace of Auburn Hills
Auburn Hills, MI
As the Memphis Tigers (31-4) and the Michigan State Spartans (26-8) get set to tip it off Saturday at 2:45 PM here in southeast Michigan, it isnâ€™t like these two teams from different conferences donâ€™t have an idea about the other.
The Spartans have a D.J. Stephens on the bench. He is a former player and an assistant coach. The Tigers also have one, he isnâ€™t related, but he has an idea about the storied Spartan program.Â Â Unlike the Spartans D.J. Stephens he is a player and not a coach...yet.Â â€œMichigan State, they're a great basketball team. We know they're great at rebounding the basketball. So we know we'll have our handful, but I'm pretty sure our coaches are going to scout them and we'll be ready for the game on Saturday.â€
Tiger Joe Jackson will have his hands full with Gary Harris and Keith Appling. He knows about Harris, but knows Appling. â€œWell, I don't know much about Gary. That's the freshman you're talking about, right? I expect both of them to play hard. They play for a great coach; they play for Tom Izzo. They just got a lot of tradition at the school, so I expect them to play hard. But Keith, I'm real cool with Keith Appling. We played together in the USA games overseas. I mean, I kind of know what he can do good and what he can do bad. It's going to be a good game and he's going to play hard. He's going to try to help his team win. I'm going to try to help mine.â€
Tigers Coach Josh Pastner is a young coach that inherited a very difficult situation when John Calipari fled for Kentucky. He certainly doesnâ€™t lack confidence, but he also doesnâ€™t lack respect and admiration for Tom Izzo, the MSU head man.
Pastner said, â€œI have no idea why Tom Izzo isn't in the hall of fame right now, and I'm being serious. He should be in the hall of fame. He's not only one of the great coaches of all time; he's one of the great guys of all time. And Coach Izzo is one of the great guys of all time. He's been good to coaches all throughout and he should be in the hall of fame already.â€
He went on to say about the Spartan team that, â€œMichigan State's a great basketball team. They've got a lot of good players. They do a great job, and we're going to need all of our guys to play well on Saturday.â€
With that respect, he doesnâ€™t want his Tigers to think they are second class citizens. â€œAs I told our team, let's not forget, we are the 15th ranked team in the poll. We have won 31 games. I mean, this isn't a Cinderella story. I mean, we are a good basketball team, and, you know, we want to advance. So we know we got to play great on Saturday and we know it's going to be a home game for Michigan State. But at one time this year, we had the nation's longest true road win streak in the country, and we're a very good road team. I know we'll be ready to go. We know we're playing a great basketball team, and I think it's going to be a great game on Saturday.â€
The breakdown of this game is simple. Memphis plays upbeat, almost playground type basketball. MSU plays methodicly and with great discipline. Memphis has yet to be tested like an MSU will test them. MSU will not be afraid to run with them and also to slow it down and attack them.
I certainly wouldnâ€™t call this matchup epic, but I would call it intriguing.