In past years, Michigan State meeting in-state rival Oakland University traditionally would serve as an easy non-conference tuneup and a chance for the Spartans to work out the kinks in the midst of a blowout over the Golden Grizzlies.
However, that doesn’t look as if it’s the case this season.
No. 12 Michigan State has won all 19 previous meetings against Oakland, but this could be the best chance for Oakland to secure that elusive victory on Tuesday night in Detroit.
The Spartans played in the first game at Oakland’s new arena when the Golden Grizzlies moved to Division I in 1998. Michigan State faced Oakland each year during the non-conference season either in East Lansing, Mich., or at neutral sites.
Golden Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe would relish a victory over Spartans coach Tom Izzo.
This actually could be the year for Oakland despite Michigan State’s 9-2 record and lofty ranking.
The Golden Grizzlies are off to a 7-3 start overall and 2-0 in the Horizon League following two road wins in league play, They are No. 63 in the NET rankings, which is high for a mid-major program.
Oakland already has a signature victory over a Power Five conference team after winning at Oklahoma State earlier this season.
The Golden Grizzlies also will have had a full two weeks to rest and prepare for the Spartans following a one-point loss at Bowling Green on Dec. 7.
“I’m disappointed,” Kampe said of that setback. “We felt like we had to get this win to put an exclamation point on our non-league season and go into the holiday and get ready for Michigan State and all that kind of stuff on a high note. Instead, you put a pin in the balloon and pop it.”
The Golden Grizzlies have been led in scoring and rebounding by Marquette transfer Jamal Cain, who is averaging 21.2 points and 10.5 boards per game.
Jalen Moore (13.7 ppg) was named to the Horizon League’s preseason first team, while Trey Townsend (13.3 ppg) is another versatile contributor.
Unranked to start the season, Michigan State has gotten it done thus far with depth, balance on offense, and rebounding and defense.
The Spartans also will be coming off a lengthy layoff, having not played since earning an 80-64 home win over Penn State on Dec. 11.
After that victory, Izzo said he hoped the break would serve as a chance for his team to refine some things on offense.
“We seem to guard this stuff better than we are offensively right now,” Izzo said. “That’ll be what this break will be for. Offenses are always behind the defenses, and we will try to do a better job of that as a staff, and maybe it will help our guys.”
Gabe Brown (13.3) and Marcus Bingham Jr. (10.3) are the only Michigan State players averaging in double figures in scoring this season.
–Field Level Media