If you’re going to do a yearly competition between yourself and another conference, then the match ups have to be absolutely fire. There are no and’s, if’s, or but’s about it, especially when each side has their share of top-notch talent. As the 2019 Gavitt Games concluded on Thursday night, college basketball fans will be in a treat as No. 3 Michigan State and No. 12 Seton Hall face off at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
This matchup honestly has everything, you want to see in an early-season battle between highly-ranked programs. There’s elite coaching (Tom Izzo and Kevin Willard). The presence of star players, even if they aren’t playing (Cassius Winston and Myles Powell). If that isn’t enough, then consider this. Thursday’s game between the Pirates and Spartans is usually when someone, let’s say a role player, steps up and becomes known nationwide (Hello, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Aaron Henry!).
It’s actually fitting, I mentioned the idea of someone stepping up and becoming better known, because the Pirates will deal with that possibility moving forward. With senior guard and preseason Big East Player of the Year Myles Powell out for an extended time because of a serious ankle injury, Coach Willard has to depend on a supporting cast whose primary purposes was to fulfill other areas and assist Powell. But not all hope is lost.
Veterans such as senior guard Quincy McKnight (12 PPG) and Mamukelashvili, a junior forward who’s currently averaging 14 & 5, are there to lead a Pirates team who will rely on each other instead of one man. If those two can lead the way, then it’ll make easier for the Big East competitor as the scoring duties can be balanced between everyone (Especially Shavar Reynolds and Jared Rhoden) and their reputation as a solid, defensive unit can be solidified.
As for their opponent, the Spartans are in midst of a very emotional start to their season. Cassius Winston lost his younger brother Zachary in an train accident, and the team has rallied around the senior guard every since. While it’s still very early, you can’t help but feel bad for the Big 10 favorites. The Spartans were already dealing with bigger expectations after making the Final Four, but to be in the position where they have to handle that along with this tragic situation, is something no one could ever prepare for.
The Spartans have a competitive opening month schedule, featuring dates with Kentucky. Seton Hall, and Duke. As crazy as this might sound, a slow start by them could affect their standing in next year’s NCAA Tournament. But I honestly don’t expect that to happen, especially with Winston’s improved progression (19 PPG & 7 APG) and the likes of Henry, Xavier Tillman, and Marcus Bingham Jr contributing to their cause (that trio is averaging at least 10 PPG each).
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 8:30 PM EST
Online: Fox Sports Go