By: Will Burchfield
Michigan State and Notre Dame renewed their rivalry on the hardcourt on Thursday night, but Irish head coach Mike Brey shot down any possibility of an annual matchup.
“Ain’t happening, ain’t happening,” said Brey, following the Spartans’ 81-63 romp at the Breslin Center.
Brey’s response wasn’t necessarily informed by the outcome of the game, grim as it was for No. 5 Notre Dame. An ongoing series with Michigan State simply wouldn’t make sense within the confines of his teams’s schedule.
“We have two Big 10 games that are always spoken for: The ACC-Big 10 (Challenge) — and maybe we’ll see them again in that — and we always play in the Crossroads (Classic). I don’t need to play a third Big 10 home-and-home. …Again, it’s a great matchup and it’s an easy ride, but I just don’t want to play too many Big 10 games,” said Brey.
On top of that, both the ACC and the Big 10 are expanding their conference schedules from 18 games to 20. The Big 10 will make the switch in 2018-19 and the ACC will do so in 2019-20.
“Both us and the Big 10 are going to 20 league games, so what’s your philosophy with your non-league (schedule)? I think you have to be smart and not over-schedule in your non-league because we’re both going to play 20. I’d be fine meeting them every five years in the ACC-Big 10 (Challenge),” Brey said. “But they’re a great program. They’re a great measuring stick for where your program is.”
Thursday’s game marked the 96th meeting between the two schools, but just the second since 1979. They had gone 35 years without playing each other before squaring off in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge at Notre Dame in 2014. Barring a matchup in the NCAA Tournament, they likely won’t see meet again until the ACC-Big 10 Challenge calls for it.
That’s just fine for Brey, especially this year.
“They’re as good as anybody in the country,” he said of No. 3 Michigan State, “and I’m glad they’re not in our league. I’m glad we don’t see them again.”
Tom Izzo, whose Spartans are now 6-1 with non-conference wins over Notre Dame, UNC and UConn, lamented the lack of practice time created by early-season tournaments and a soon-expanding conference schedule. Michigan State returned from Portland, Oreg. early Monday morning after playing three games in four days in the PK80 invitational.
“It’s scary where we’re going, into 20 conference games,” Izzo said. “It means less non-conference and balancing it out. The tournaments are great, but they’re always in places (with) travel and you play three games in four days or three games in three days. The negative about that is you get no practice time, and everybody wants to get better in November.
“You’re not getting better in January, you’re getting better in November. You take something you don’t do or you play a good team and they kick your butt on something and you go to practice…That’s what you try to do, but we have not had a lot of time, and nobody does if you’re playing in those things.”