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The only thing that’s been able to slow Michigan State’s quest for a Big Ten title so far this season has been COVID. The conference states that in order to play a game, both teams must have seven scholarship players available.
That mandate led to the cancellation of last Saturday’s game with rival Michigan, putting a temporary pause on the ninth-ranked Spartans’ eight-game winning streak. Though disappointed, MSU coach Tom Izzo is determined to have the Spartans stay the course, regardless of the obstacles that lie ahead.
“This is the cards you’re dealt. And he who handles adversity the best is probably going to be the most successful,” Izzo said per the Detroit Free Press. “And I do believe that.”
"I'm gonna play every game I can play…if it happens to us and we are down to five players, we won't play either." – Tom Izzo
— Al Martin (@AlMartinWKAR) January 10, 2022
Michigan State currently sits atop the Big Ten conference with a 13-2 record (4-0 in conference.) Because of Saturday’s COVID cancellation, tonight’s game with conference opponent Minnesota will mark the first time the Spartans have played since last Wednesday. The combination of the layoff and the letdown of the cancellation against a bitter rival last weekend could prove challenging for Izzo’s bunch.
“It’s tough on our players. And yet we had momentum. How do you maintain momentum? You maintain momentum by worrying most about ourselves,” Izzo told the Detroit Free Press.
Michigan State and Michigan have yet to reschedule their game. Unlike last season, the Big Ten did not build extra off days into the schedule this year to allow for game changes or postponements, which means that teams like MSU could play fewer games than some of their opponents. Unwanted days off could also hinder their ability to maintain chemistry and cohesion, which are key for a deep run in March.
Izzo will do whatever he can to ensure the Spartans continue to compete as scheduled. Per the Detroit Free Press, Izzo said, “I’m gonna play every game I can play. I said that last year — we came off 17 days and played three days after we started practicing and got our brains beat in for three games. But I still hope that we’ll all play every game we can play. If we don’t have enough players, if it happens to us and we’re down to five players or whatever situations are at different schools, we won’t play either. But if we can, I’m gonna play.”
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF