The MSU men’s basketball team prepares for their clash against Eastern Michigan on November 20, 2021 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

After three straight wins, Michigan State men’s basketball enters the first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas against Loyola Chicago.

The Battle 4 Atlantis, a classic in the early season since its introduction in 2011, offers another charged field this year: the reigning national champion Baylor, Arizona State, Syracuse, Auburn, VCU, Loyola Chicago, and Michigan State. On his first appearance at Atlantis, Head Coach Tom Izzo praised the strength of his competitors and said he was looking forward to this opportunity with his team.

“You can always travel and spend time together and do some things together … it’s always positive,” he said.

Now after what Izzo described as a “brutal” start to the season has survived, the state of Michigan is now facing its most demanding test yet. Izzo said that the challenge of a compressed schedule with little lead time is almost invaluable preparation for the next conference game and the NCAA tournament.

“Three games in three days is very difficult for a coaching staff, but it is for the players even more difficult, “said Izzo on Tuesday. “What we can pick up for it … you won’t be able to measure it. It will really help you later, whether you win, lose or draw. ”

Michigan State tips on Wednesday against Loyola Chicago (4-0), one of the established top mid-major programs in the country. There’s a notable connection here, too: The Ramblers are trained in their first year by Drew Valentine, a former Michigan state executive from Lansing who worked under Izzo from 2013-2015.

Izzo said he was doesn’t like playing former assistants, but Valentine is proud to have reached this stage in his career as the youngest head coach in Division I college basketball. Regardless, he indicated that their relationship won’t hurt the competition.

“I just pull for these guys to win every game except the one I play,” he said.

What As for Valentine’s roster, Izzo called them the “oldest team in captivity,” citing experience as their greatest asset. Loyola is returning four starters from a 2020-21 campaign in which they set a 26-5 record and moved up to the Sweet Sixteen, with graduate guard Lucas Williamson (10.8 points per game) and graduate striker Aher Uguak (13 , 5 points per game). leading in their final seasons at Rogers Park.

For as much as they return, Loyola has added a pivotal piece that has played a huge role so far. Princeton transfer and senior striker Ryan Schweiger joined the Ramblers this off-season and leads the team in scoring (14.8 points per game) while taking an average of 18 minutes per game.

Valentine has too Made some changes to the Ramblers, namely a stronger emphasis on shooting from the bow. Loyola has the fourth best three-point shooting rate (45.2%) in all of college basketball, with Schweiger (50%) and Williamson (38.1%) leading the way (at least ten attempts during the season). For the most part, the Michigan state defense has been strong this season, but when they have a weakness they give up a disproportionate number of threes. Izzo said it was vital that they defend the shot better than they did in their last game against Eastern Michigan to succeed against a Ramblers team that offers a balanced punch.

Baylor (4-0) lost two key figures in the NBA draft with Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler, but returned more than enough talent to be real contenders in a strong Big 12. Senior Guard Matthew Mayer and Junior Guard Adam Flagler are back as the loyalists of a team that won it all with savage defense and a lightning rod offensive that thrived on the perimeter, but second guardian LJ Cryer (18.5 points per game) and the freshman security guard Kendall Brown have more than proven themselves in the initial phase. The bears don’t just rely on a championship pedigree to be absolute favorites in Battle 4 Atlantis; They have the talent, the coach, and the plan to make a serious attempt.

Arizona State (2-2) is one of the most enigmatic teams in the field this year. Senior striker Kimani Lawrence (16 points per game, 10 rebounds per game) is thriving once again, but narrow losses to San Diego State and UC Riverside give cause for some legitimate concern at Tempe. Expect the Sun Devils to rely on their seasoned front court of Lawrence and junior striker Jalen Graham this week as they continue to put together a contiguous backcourt with only Ohio State transfer and Redshirt junior guard Luther Muhammed. p> UConn (4-0) is one of the trendier picks that finished second behind Villanova in a red-hot Big East, and this tournament will give them a first taste of some big competition. Unproven as they may be, it is almost certain that second striker Adama Sanogo (15.8 points per game) with his dangerous combination of size and strength will grab the opponent’s attention after scooping a big one this off-season Step forward. The Huskies also have four other double-digit scorers in the R.J. Cole, Senior Guard Tyrese Martin, Graduate Student Striker Tyler Polley, and Junior Guard Jalen Gaffney, all of whom play stubborn defense and ricochet extremely well at the same time; If they can fix their recent slow start problems, UConn could be in the long run at Paradise Island.

After last year’s disappointing season, Auburn (3-0) carefully reinforced their forecourt with freshman striker Jabari Smith and the North Carolina Transfer and College Student Center Walker Kessler. Kessler’s offensive performance hasn’t been great so far, but Smith (13.3 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game) has proven to be a key contributor early in his college career and is well on his way to earning more NBA buzz. In the second year, K.D. Johnson and Wendell Green Jr. together score 26.3 points per game and are just the tip of the iceberg of a Tiger team that will try to draw on their considerable depth this week.

Syracuse (2-1) recently suffered one of the worst losses of any team this season with a shocking 100-85 loss to Colgate, a team they haven’t lost to since 1962. Anomaly? The Orange will find out this week when they headline some seasoned scoring talent with senior guard Buddy Boeheim (20 points per game), junior guard Joseph Girard III, graduate striker Jimmy Boeheim and senior striker Cole Swider ride. And although they were significantly better offensive than defensive at the beginning of the year, nobody knows that they shouldn’t count their praised 2-3 zone better than Izzo.

“Whenever Syracuse is with (Head Coach Jim Boeheim) is in that zone, there will be problems there, ”said Izzo.

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On the surface, VCU (2-2) could easily be the weakest team in the bunch after some putrid results were released, notably a 48-37 win against Vanderbilt and a 58-44 loss against Wagner. There’s not that much to like here compared to the rest of the Atlantis teams, but this defense is no joke and senior striker Vince Williams Jr. (12.3 pts per game) seems more than up to the challenge on Paradise Island .

Michigan State tips Loyola Chicago at 12 noon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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