|Michigan State's schedule will test No. 6 ranking|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 15 November 2008 13:47|
The sixth-ranked Spartans will not have to wait long, however, to get a sense of where they stand among college basketball's best.
Michigan State will play Maryland on Thanksgiving, then will face No. 10 Gonzaga or Oklahoma State and potentially No. 14 Tennessee or 22nd-ranked Georgetown in a three-game tournament.
A few days later, Michigan State will match up with top-ranked North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit - the site of the Final Four.
``We're chomping at the bit to get started to find out how good we are,'' forward Raymar Morgan said. ``You come to Michigan State to play the best and that's what we're going to do.''
Coach Tom Izzo is also looking forward to seeing how his team fares, but he is quick to say the true measure may not come until facing the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks after playing a few Big Ten games.
oe is a contributor,'' Izzo said. ``But we're going to bring him along slowly after his knee surgeries and it won't be until early January, until he can play a lot to help us reach our potential.
``We can be a much better team in January or February if Roe is healthy.''
The 6-foot-8 Roe was regarded as one of the top juniors in the nation two years ago. But the Ohio native had major surgery on his right knee after playing only one game last season and relatively minor surgery on his other knee in August.
``That's always going to be in the back of my mind, but the doctors and trainers are telling me I have nothing to worry about,'' Roe said.
Roe is expected to come off the bench for a stacked squad that could regularly use 10-plus players.
Standout guard Drew Neitzel and role-playing center Drew Naymick, both of whom are playing professionally in Europe, are the only ones missing from last year's team that won 27 games and put the program in the round of 16 for the seventh time in 11 years.
Quick point guard Kalin Lucas will start with center Goran Suton. The other three spots likely will include some combination of guards Travis Walton, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen along with power forward Marquise Gray until Roe proves he's healthy to crack the lineup.
Michigan State plans to apply full-court pressure on defense and to run early and often on offense, taking advantage of its depth with talent such as freshmen Korie Lucious and Draymond Green being role players.
``We have a lot of versatile players who are going to put a lot of pressure on opponents,'' Morgan said.
The Spartans don't have anybody, though, with a Big Ten championship ring because the last one was earned in 2001.
``Our first goal is to win the Big Ten,'' Morgan said. ``Then, our goal is to get to the Final Four.''
The Spartans lead the nation with four trips to the Final Four in the past decade.
If Michigan State makes it a fifth time under Izzo, it will be a 90-minute bus ride away from playing in college basketball's showcase.
``Yeah, I dream about it,'' Izzo has acknowledged. ``But I've been through enough that I understand how good you have to be and how lucky you have to be.''
Izzo insisted his greatest day as a coach wasn't when the Spartans won the national championship in 2000, but when they won the regional final a week before in front of their fans at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Playing for a title in the Motor City would top that.
``This gives you a chance to have a real big party,'' Izzo said. ``I don't want our guys thinking about the Final Four, but I hope every one of them goes to sleep every night and dreams about it.''