Spartan Hoop Team Readies For A Difficult Week

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Tom Izzo designed the nonconference portion of Michigan State's basketball schedule for a reason. Monday, he needed a reminder of that rationale.
The No. 9 Spartans (6-1) will face Bradley (6-2) on Tuesday night in Peoria, Ill., then play BYU (6-1) on Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City in one of the toughest weeks of the season.
"I've got to be Joe Gibbs and take full responsibility for this situation, where I'm questioning myself," Izzo said, referring to the Washington Redskins coach, who accepted the blame for a costly error Sunday. "I do think it's going to benefit us somehow. Maybe one of you, in your infinite wisdom, can tell me how. But I do think there's a benefit in going on the road and playing in tough places, especially for some of our young guys."
Izzo said his team will see two of the tougher environments in the country in the span of four days, beginning with Carver Arena, where Bradley has won 29 straight nonconference games.
"I read one article an alum sent me that said this is the biggest thing that has happened there in 10 years," Izzo said. "I'm not sure whether we're that big or they haven't had a lot of things that have happened there. But they don't get a Michigan State to come in there all the time. There's no question about that."
The Spartans know they won't be beaten by a building. Their win over Missouri before roughly 16,000 Tigers fans at a supposedly neutral site in Kansas City, Mo., was proof of that fact. But other dangers lurk if Michigan State isn't ready.
"We're going to face a team that shoots 25 to 30 threes a game and has three players who take more threes than twos, which is odd," Izzo said, adding that no opponent will ever set more ball screens than Bradley, which could cause foul problems.
The variety of styles that Michigan State is seeing this fall should help it in conference play and the postseason, Izzo said, provided it learns some lessons and avoids a skid.
"Ninety percent of the BYU players are married," Izzo said of the oldest team his players will face. "I'm not sure if that's good or it's bad. . . . But BYU could be as good as any team we play in a nonconference game. And as we're starting to learn, our nonconference schedule gets better with every day that goes by, if you saw Texas last night."
The Longhorns beat then-No. 2 UCLA and will meet the Spartans on Dec. 22 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, a rematch of a game Michigan State won last year in New York. But Izzo's focus is on this week, not the Saturday before Christmas.
Spartan coaches also would like All-America guard Drew Neitzel to take more shots. Fortunately for Izzo, Neitzel is averaging five assists for every turnover.
"He's not complaining," Izzo said. "I am. We're not screening well enough, he's not coming off the screens well enough, or we're not getting the ball to him at the right time. But give the defenses some credit, too. He's getting a lot more attention."

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