NEW YORK CITY — LJ Scott, Brian Lewerke and company pounded open a hole through a wall of haters and doubters. Now Miles Bridges wants to run through it.
“I mean, [the football team], they’re undefeated in the Big Ten Conference,” the Michigan State men’s basketball star told Land of 10 Thursday at the conference’s media day at Madison Square Garden. “In some ways, we want to be like them. Because we were underlooked last year, and this year, we want to come out from the jump and just pounce on teams.”
Unlike the football team, ranked No. 18 in the latest AP poll and off to a 5-1 start (3-0 Big Ten), the hoops Spartans are a consensus preseason pick to win the circuit. A recent unofficial media poll of 28 Big Ten writers showed Michigan State getting every first-place vote.
Preseason Coaches Poll
2 Michigan State
8 Wichita State
10 West Virginia
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) October 19, 2017
— Zach Sepanik (@zachsepanik) October 19, 2017
— Land of 10 MSU (@Landof10MSU) October 19, 2017
That’s a lot of love.
A lot of pressure, too.
“How? It’s [Tom] Izzo. It’s Michigan State. What do you mean?” Jim Jackson, the former Ohio State and NBA guard and FOX Sports 1 analyst, said with a come-on-man grin. “The bar’s always been high at Michigan State.
“Expectation levels, because of Izzo’s accomplishments and what they’ve been able to do at Michigan State, are always high. But actually, it’s great for the conference, because you’ve got a team you’re talking about in the [preseason] top 10, ranked No. 2, a lot of eyes are going to be on every game they play. So if you’re an opposing team, that’s your shot. That’s your shot, playing against Michigan State.”
‘I know they’re going to play with a chip on their shoulders. And that’s how we need to play this year.’
— Michigan State star swingman Miles Bridges on the Spartans’ 5-1 football team
Which brings us, in a weird way, back to the football thing. And why Bridges, the 6-foot-7 swing man and preseason Big Ten player of the year, is encouraging his teammates to follow the path laid down by football coach Mark Dantonio:
Us against the world, baby.
“I mean, coming to Michigan State, we knew that we’re going to be marked men because of the culture around the history and the success that has gone on at Michigan State,” said Bridges, who averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. “I know almost every guy on the football team. And everybody — they were counting them out from the jump. Michigan was going to beat us. Iowa was going to beat us. All that type of stuff.
“I’m just happy for the football team in general, because of what they went through last year — on-the-field issues and off the field. I know they’re going to play with a chip on their shoulders. And that’s how we need to play this year.”