It’s not an uprising, but annually, there’s a murmur from fans: Michigan State’s nonleague home basketball schedule lacks punch.
No one would argue about the value of the overall season ticket â€” the nine Big Ten games make it a solid buy. It’s just heavily weighted on the back end.
The issue is two-tiered: There aren’t enough marquee games against big-time opponents; and there aren’t enough interesting games against teams that, well, you simply find interesting.
I wrote today about the former.
That’s not going to change anytime soon.
But perking up the schedule is doable, and begins in-state, and then by understanding Xavier or Kansas State might not be Kentucky or Kansas, but they’re interesting foes.
In my column, I quote Tom Izzo about how he’d rather play top 10 programs in home-and-home series, rather than at neutral sites — it’s better for both fan bases — and how he’s puzzled other coaches aren’t willing to do it.
He is only referring to elite programs. There is a pecking order in college basketball and MSU has climbed to near the top of it. The Spartans could schedule home-and-homes and 2-for-1s against mid-level high-majors and interesting mid-majors â€” and sometimes do. Doing so, albeit, comes a degree of risk.
While scheduling is undoubtedly a nightmare for the Spartans â€” as it is for everyone in college hoops (especially teams that win) â€” it’s far worse for good programs lacking cash or clout. Ask Utah State or Akron how difficult it is to get someone to come to their place.
MSU should consider an every-year series with Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Detroit and Oakland â€” all of them together â€” perhaps playing one on the road each season (something Izzo has done occasionally, and more frequently with out-of-state mid-majors).
Fans would rather see the Titans or Chippewas than McNeese State or Mount St. Mary’s. Every few years, the Spartans might lose one or two. Not the end the world.
Iowa took part in something like this from 1990-2012, playing a round-robin event with Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Drake.
If three or four of MSU six or seven nonleague home games were against Detroit (Perry Watson is gone, so the politics have improves), Western Michigan, Oakland, etc., wouldn’t those games be of more interest to you?
(Maybe if you sign a waiver that says you won’t overreact to occasional losses to in-state mid-majors, Izzo will do it.)
Package that with a second-tier high-major and home game against Texas or in the ACC/Big Ten challenge, sprinkle in a game or two vs. McNeese State or Columbia (two very different level programs) and, to me, it’s an interesting November and December at Breslin.
There are realities and limits to scheduling. The strength of MSU’s overall schedule nonleague schedule is solid, the marquee television exposure games plenty. But more could probably be done to make your ticket interesting, even without changing the level of competition substantially.