‘Not gonna be a dink-around thing’

EAST LANSING — It is something out of a dream for Tom Izzo: His basketball squad kicking off (or tipping off) a football Saturday.

It also is a return to Michigan State basketball’s bygone past: An open scrimmage to showcase Izzo’s team, which has the potential to compete for a second national title.

And he’s doing it with one objective in mind: Rallying the Spartans’ fan base. This event comes at a time of high expectations for Izzo’s team and amidst the football team’s ongoing struggles, as No. 2 Michigan is set to visit Spartan Stadium that night.

“I haven’t done it in a long while,” Izzo said after a spirited, intense practice Thursday. “I’m just trying to continually bring this whole community together. The more people that can get involved, the better.”

LISTEN UP: Spartan Speak podcast: Michigan Week has a different feel this year for MSU football

Breslin Center opens at 2 p.m., and the scrimmage starts at 2:30. Admission is free.

The football game begins at 7:30 p.m., and tailgate lots open at 11 a.m. Fans without a football parking pass may park in public access pay lots.

“We haven’t done this since I’ve been here,” said senior guard A.J. Hoggard, who arrived at MSU during the 2020-21 season, which featured no fans in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I think there’s gonna be a lot of people there. It’s definitely prepping for the ravalry football game. So if they get a chance to see us before the football game, I think it’ll be very fun and exciting.”

Izzo’s team is ranked No. 4 in the preseason USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll and coming off a 21-16 finish in 2022-23. They advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans retain most of their players from last season and have added a highly anticipated freshman class. The team’s roster includes notable names such as Xavier Booker, Coen Carr, Jeremy Fears Jr., Gehrig Normand, and returning players A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins, and Tyson Walker.

Izzo mentioned that his players are eager to start the season. They have an exhibition game scheduled against Hillsdale next week, followed by a charity exhibition against No. 10 Tennessee. The regular season kicks off on November 6 against James Madison, with subsequent games against Southern Indiana and No. 3 Duke.

This Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage serves as a training opportunity for Izzo’s team, allowing them to get accustomed to playing in front of an audience before the official games begin.

One player who will be absent from the scrimmage is Jaxon Kohler. The sophomore forward underwent left foot surgery on Tuesday, which means players like Xavier Booker, Carson Cooper, Malik Hall, and Mady Sissoko will have to step up in his absence.

Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. Follow him @chrissolari.

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