Michigan State's men's basketball squad will grace ESPN College GameDay's prestigious stage this season, officials at the network have confirmed.
The game will take place Feb. 6, when the Spartans play at Illinois. It's one of seven men's basketball games, and one women's game, College GameDay will attend this season - and the only tilt involving Big Ten teams.
MSU has a somewhat prestigious history with College GameDay, as one of just 14 schools to host the football and basketball versions. This will be State's fourth appearance on the basketball show, the third time as the visiting squad. MSU played at Ohio State and hosted Indiana in 2005, and then at Indiana in 2008.
State's inclusion on the GameDay list reflects media expectations for the coming year, with a top-10 showing expected despite losing three centers and all-world defensive guard (and the team's heart and soul) Travis Walton.
It also reflects the prestige the Spartans' program has earned because, quite frankly folks, they ain't going to see the Illini. That's not a dig at Bruce Weber's team, or the tradition at Assembly Hall. Rather, its a note that State has elevated itself into the rarefied air of a national basketball program that people from coast to coast want to watch. We're not UNC, Duke or Kentucky yet, but exposure-wise, we're getting close.
As for the football version of College GameDay, MSU's chances of making it this year aren't that great. MSU's four football GameDay appearances have involved Michigan (1997 and 1999), Notre Dame (2004) and Penn State (2005), as well as students throwing various and sundry projectiles at Lee Corso when he inevitably picks against Sparty.
Unlike its basketball counterpart, the football GameDay program doesn't make its location picks until 1-2 weeks before game time. This season's first two games are the only ones set so far - Alabama @ Va Tech in week one, followed by USC @ Ohio State.
The trouble for State is that the schedule realistically doesn't set up for an appearance this year. The two MSU-Michigan games were when both teams were ranked in the top 15. The 2004 match against Notre Dame was only broadcast on GameDay because Hurricane Ivan threatened the previously-scheduled LSU @ Auburn game. And the 2005 Penn State game was broadcast because of the storyline surrounding Joe Paterno and how the Nittany Lions turned around their program.
Here are the games there's a chance for, and why it likely ain't gonna happen:
@ Notre Dame - NBC owns the rights to games in South Bend, and ESPN isn't going to feature a game it can't broadcast.
vs. Iowa - This should be a great game, but unfortunately neither State nor Iowa are the "national powerhouses," and there's almost an unwritten rule that one team in the game should be - especially early in the season.
vs. Michigan - Frankly, they won't be good enough.
vs. Penn State - This is the best chance, and only if the game will decide the Big Ten championship. Working against us: The fact that GameDay loves a night game, and Big Ten rules prohibit November matches starting in the 7 p.m. window. They'd have to run a 3:30 p.m. game, which isn't unprecedented, but isn't the favorite option.
If you like the shows, head to Champaign-Urbana. Because unless miracles happen, that's the only time you'll see MSU and a GameDay crew in the same building this year.