Michigan State added to Notre Dame men's basketball schedule

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Had this been a normal college basketball season, the prospect of adding a third Big Ten team to the Notre Dame men’s basketball schedule would’ve been met with a swift response from Irish coach Mike Brey.

Not a chance.

But in these pandemic times when non-conference games are tough to secure, Brey has approached this season with more of an open scheduling mind. If there’s a quality opponent within driving distance — and the Spartans certainly check both/all boxes — there’s no reason not to consider them a non-league game.

Even against a Big Ten school.

The Tribune has learned that Notre Dame will play Michigan State at Breslin Center on Saturday, Nov. 28. For now, that will serve as the Irish season opener, though Notre Dame continues to work with November closing quickly to add a home game on Nov. 25 — Thanksgiving Eve.

Notre Dame’s season opener — likely still in pencil — was to be Dec. 2 at home against Western Michigan.

Next month’s meeting will mark the first time the teams play in a normal regular-season game since 1975. The teams have met only three times since — once (1979) in the NCAA tournament and twice (2014, 2017) in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Playing a third Big Ten team in the non-conference is something that Brey rarely considers, in part because it too regionalizes a program that he likes to take nationally. Like say, out to UCLA, or back along the Interestate-95 corridor to renew an old Big East rivalry. Even up I-94 to play Marquette (that’s coming soon).

None of those are going to happen this year, so why not get on a bus, get a good game against a really good/great program, and get ready for Atlantic Coast Conference play?

Works for Brey. Works for Tom Izzo.

Michigan State leads the series 60-37, but the Irish are 25-23 all-time in East Lansing. The teams’ last meeting was a memorable one. In 2017, as the stand-alone game on national television to close the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Michigan State beat Notre Dame 81-63.

The Spartans came into that game ranked third. The Irish were ranked fifth following a Maui Jim Maui Invitational championship victory the previous weekend. That game at Breslin Center also was the night that former Irish power forward Bonzie Colson first started feeling soreness in a foot that he would later break twice.

The Spartans have won three of the last four meetings. Notre Dame last won in East Lansing in 1974 at the old Jenison Fieldhouse.

Word of the addition of Michigan State means Notre Dame will play at least three Big Ten teams this season. On Thursday, it was announced that Notre Dame will host Ohio State as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The teams have never met in the challenge. They last played in 2013 at, of all places, Madison Square Garden.

That’s the night Notre Dame let an eight-point lead with less than a minute remaining slip away. The next day, former Irish guard Jerian Grant announced he would separate from the school for academic reasons.

Notre Dame and Purdue also are scheduled to play Dec. 19 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the annual Crossroads Classic.

Kentucky (Dec. 12 at Rupp Arena) also is on Notre Dame’s non-league schedule this season.

Notre Dame’s entire regular-season schedule could be released early next week.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey are good friends off the court. They’ll meet on it this season when the Irish travel to East Lansing on Nov. 25.