Spartans get started with national title in mind

Dressed up in a spacesuit as he addressed the crowd, Tom Izzo

was in his element as a college basketball coach.

A few months after deciding to stay at Michigan State instead of

going to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, Izzo was in an upbeat mood

Friday night during the Spartans’ Midnight Madness. He even

mentioned his big offseason choice while promoting Saturday’s

football game against Illinois.

”Tomorrow at noon, at Spartan Stadium,” Izzo said. ”There is

nothing like that in Cleveland.”

The Spartans then showed off their Final Four banner from last

season and scrimmaged a bit. Guard Kalin Lucas, who ruptured the

Achilles’ tendon in his left foot in the NCAA tournament last

season, was back on the court.

It feels like the Spartans are always a threat to reach the

Final Four, but Izzo insists it’s not that easy.

”It’s very difficult to get back,” Izzo said earlier this

week. ”We lose a little bit more than you think … but we’ve got

seven players back that have started and that’s good news.”

The Spartans enter the season with high expectations, and there

was plenty of excitement during Midnight Madness, which included a

visit from actor Gerard Butler.

Michigan State reached the Final Four last season for the second

consecutive year, and the Spartans have six Final Four appearances

in their past 12 seasons. They haven’t won a national title since

2000, though, which is something this group hopes to change. Three

of their top four and seven of nine scorers are back from last

season’s team that won 28 games.

”They have to come back with a different mindset about how we

can finish the job,” Izzo said. ”That will be the battle cry –

finish better.”

So far, his players are taking that attitude to heart, knowing

another Final Four trip could feel a bit empty without a national

championship.

”We’ve tried to learn from what other championship teams have

done and one of the things we’re trying to do is spend more time

together away from the gym, hanging out together and spending time

together when we’re not practicing or working out,” guard Durrell

Summers said. ”I think that is going to help us build a better

bond as a team.”

Summers, who could have skipped his senior year to enter the

draft, was slowed over the summer by a sprained knee. Delvon Roe,

coming off surgery on his right knee, is working out without pain

for the first time since high school.

Lucas expects his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon to be

healthy enough for him to play in the season-opening game Nov. 12

at home against Eastern Michigan.

”He has done an incredible job getting back, but he’s still got

a long ways to go,” Izzo said. ”He doesn’t have all of his speed

back, which has almost helped him because he’s slowing himself down

and he’s been a better passer and shooter.”

After that Eastern Michigan game, the Spartans host South

Carolina. They then head out to Hawaii to play in the Maui

Invitational, which includes Connecticut and Kentucky, among other

teams.