Little Caesars Arena opened 192 days ago. On Friday night, for the first time, the building truly came alive.
And so begins Michigan State’s quest for a third national championship and the elusive follow-up crown Tom Izzo has been chasing for almost two decades.
Perhaps on a neutral court in November, the feisty Bucknell Bison could have done the impossible and taken down big and powerful Michigan State.
But during the madness of March, with 20,000-plus green-blooded Spartan fans screaming in unison, there was virtually no chance in Hell, MI, that Izzo’s group was bowing out in round one. The Spartans won 82-78.
Future NBA lottery pick Miles Bridges put the rest of America on high alert that the next few weeks might belong entirely to him. He buried 3s. He sliced to the basket. And in the highlight of the night, he soared over the full 14-man Bucknell roster home a rebound with his off-hand. The sophomore sensation (29 points) collected all the whispers of “overhyped” and “overrated” from throughout this season and put them nicely to bed for the evening. And likely much longer.
Josh Langford, sometimes a forgotten man for this star-studded squad, played near-flawless basketball against Bucknell. Langford carried Michigan State’s offense in the first half, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-10 from the field. With Rip Hamilton’s jersey hanging in the rafters above, Langford put on a mid-range show of which #32 would surely be approving.
And while not the grizzled senior that Mateen Cleaves was in 2000, Cassius Winston showed that he might be able to guide the ship just the same through the treacherous NCAA Tournament waters.
Winston played masterfully collecting 10 assists and delivering the ball wherever it needed to be. The time for his own offense will come down the line, but if he continues to distribute the rock with the stellar unselfishness he showed against the Bison, Cassius could soon follow in the footsteps of a couple of well-known gentlemen named Magic and Mateen.
The journey is just a baby at this point. You must compete for 240 minutes to be declared best in the land, and the Spartans just knocked out their first 40.
But it was one heck of a start.
And an arena more than six months old finally got to flex a little bit of that Motor City muscle.