I managed to score two tickets to the exhibition game against Hillsdale and took my ten year-old son. As soon as we stepped into Breslin, I immediately fueled him with Pepsi and popcorn and we were fairly good to go for the rest of the evening.
It's hard to take much from games like these. Although Hillsdale played hard, they were clearly overmatched. The Spartans led the entire game and really were not seriously challenged at any point in the game, as should be expected in an exhibition. The final score was a fairly lackluster 80-58.
It was fun to see all the new faces on the MSU basketball team. They are young, but have several athletic newcomers who should be enjoyable to watch this season. I really have no idea what to expect from this year's team, but the sense of the unknown makes it more exciting, if that makes any sense.
Here are some observations, but keep in mind that I was sitting 28 rows up, behind the basket on the south side of Breslin, trying to keep my son entertained and dealing with several rugrats making lots of noise on my left: not exactly a position to be able to concentrate as fully as I'd like.
Travis Trice is one player who really stood out for me in this particular game. The kid looks like a natural leader on the floor, has a nice smooth shot, and really works hard.
I had not seen Russell Byrd until tonight, and he's another player with a silky smooth shooting stroke from the perimeter. Of course, I suppose it's easier to look smooth when one is playing against an overmatched team like Hillsdale, but I still like what I saw. Trice and Byrd have big upsides, and both could develop into excellent contributors in the near future.
Of the other Spartan players, Draymond Green was solid, Derrick Nix looks to be in the best shape of his career, and Keith Appling did a great job guiding the team at point guard, though he struggled from three-point range and had a few ugly turnovers. It will be interesting to see how much time Trice gets this season at point guard. If he continues to play with the confidence and determination he displayed tonight, he will get significant playing time.
But I have absolutely no idea how these guys will play next week against North Carolina. I suspect it could be a tough game for the Spartans, but they just might have the youthful energy and guilelessness to surprise some people. And nobody likes an uphill challenge more than Tom Izzo.
One final note: I was genuinely impressed with how hard Hillsdale played, and the Chargers had one player who stood out for his moxie and grit. He is a little guard named Tyler Gerber (#12). The Hillsdale athletics website has him listed at 5' 10", but he didn't look any taller than 5' 7" from where I was sitting. He finished with about 10 points and hustled the entire game. He looks like a gym rat who isn't afraid of challenging anyone, even if his opponent is a foot taller than he is. Good luck to Hillsdale the rest of the season.