B1G basketball notebook: Michigan State's bonkers schedule and more from across the league
Michigan State has played 1 game this season, an 18-point victory over Northern Arizona Monday night.
That’s good news.
The bad news: The easy portion of the Spartans’ non-conference schedule might now be over, because the rest of the slate is a bonkers string of college basketball blue bloods. If it’s not the country’s most-difficult schedule, it’s certainly in the top handful.
It’s possible Michigan State is one of the top 25 teams in the country — it was right outside the AP Poll in the preseason — but the Spartans could very well be sub-.500 when they open Big Ten play in early December. Heck, it’s possible they’ll be the underdog in their next 7 games: vs. No. 2 Gonzaga in the Armed Forces Classic Friday on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in San Diego; against Kentucky in the Championship Classic Tuesday in Indianapolis; as a host to Villanova in the Gavitt Games Nov. 18; vs. Alabama, then UConn or Oregon, and then another opponent Nov. 24-27 at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland; then at Notre Dame Nov. 30.
“We will be playing teams where if we don’t play good, we’re going to hear about it,” coach Tom Izzo said following MSU’s opening-night 73-55 win over Northern Arizona, “and if we do play good, we’re going to build some confidence. That’s kind of what I plan on doing.
Related: With college basketball season starting up, a major sport in the state of Maryland, it’s worth noting that Maryland sports betting is weeks away from launching. Soon Maryland bettors will be able to legally wager on college football, college basketball and NFL games.
“What was so impressive tonight, we are going to have to be good defensively in games like that. Especially when you play on an aircraft carrier and you’ll be playing outside. That’s going to be good. We can’t turn the ball over, but we did some things tonight that I think will prepare us for the next four weeks.”
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Sueing returns for Ohio State
Justice Sueing found 360 days to be enough.
After a near year-long absence while rehabbing from various injuries, the Ohio State 6th-year senior was back on the court for the Buckeyes’ season-opening 91-53 victory over Robert Morris Monday night. It was a heck of a comeback for the forward, as Sueing scored a game-high 20 points, with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in nearly 24 minutes.
It’d felt like a long, long time since Sueing last suited up for an OSU game back on Nov. 12, 2021. Sueing played only 2 games last season before shutting down due to recurring groin and abdominal injuries. An ankle injury slowed him up this preseason too, leaving at least a bit of doubt whether he’d be ready to go for Game 1.
But Monday night, he was in the starting lineup.
“Obviously, it was great seeing Justice out there,” coach Chris Holtmann said following the win. “We’ve seen him for a while behind closed doors, private scrimmage. But I’m sure it was great for our fans to be able to see him and see what he’s capable of and remember what he’s capable of. He’s a really good player.”
Injury concern in Piscataway?
Senior Caleb McConnell was on the bench for Rutgers’ opener Monday night, a 75-35 win over Columbia in Jersey Mike’s Arena.
The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is sitting due to a “tweaked” knee, according to coach Steve Pikiell. But as McConnell sits, the concerns begin to grow. Most appear to be eyeing the Hall of Fame Classic game vs. Temple at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Nov. 18 as a potential return date.
“I think he’s really close,” Pikiell said following Rutgers’ win. “Unfortunately it’s not my decision. It’s when the trainer says he’s ready to go, but I think he’s getting really close.”
Jett taking off
Jett Howard is only a game into his Michigan career, yet he is playing like a veteran.
Stands to reason for the son of coach Juwan Howard. The 6-8, 215-pounder, who was the No. 39 recruit in his class per 247sports, has been great in 2 games in Maize and Blue, scoring 30 points in only 22 minutes in the Wolverines’ exhibition, then 21 points — with 5 3-pointers — in their regular-season W over Purdue-Fort Wayne Monday night in Crisler Center.
“I just want to keep him humble,” a smiling Juwan Howard said after Michigan’s 75-56 win. “The young fella, he’s a freshman, and he’s making a name for himself because he put in the work. He’s blossoming. But he still has so much room to grow. He’s delivering for us, and we’re going to need him this season.”
Going deep in Bloomington
It’s only 1 game — Indiana beat Morehead State 88-53 Monday night in Assembly Hall — but the Hoosiers certainly appear to be deeper, and with more offensive weapons, than a season ago.
Coach Mike Woodson got 45 points and 15 rebounds off the bench, including 15 and 5 from freshman Malik Reneau. Nine Hoosiers played at least 15 minutes, none more than the 27 of fellow freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino, who had 7 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds as a starter in his IU debut.
“We are deeper this season than we were last season,” Woodson said after the win. “I like everything about our freshmen because they’re competitive … we’re longer, we’re more athletic than we were last season. That helps in the college game, I think.”