Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 12/9/11

Spokane, Washington plays host to a game that’s gotten more and more hype over the years, and the battle between Gonzaga and Michigan State in basketball brings a little Midwest swag to the Northwest. This game has become a favorite on the schedule in past years because it always proves to be a quality match-up. Remember the Adam Morrison days for Gonzaga? That ‘stache was something to be reckoned with, but so was the wiry player’s ability to make clutch three point shots when needed.

Fast-forward a few years. While this year may be a down year in terms of the hype surrounding this game, it will prove to be just as good. While MSU played a hiccup of a first-half against Central Connecticut State, unlike last year, the effort (or lack of it) during this game was quickly addressed. Draymond Green’s leadership and the players-only meeting he called afterwards was the kick in the butt that this team needed last year when they got off track, and it came at the right time before this big test against the Bulldogs.

Even sophomore Keith Appling is starting to play the way Izzo imagined he would at the beginning of the season. The Detroit native went off against Florida State during the Big Ten/ACC challenge with a career-high night of 24 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and a co-Big Ten player of the week accolade. Izzo said the freaky-fast guard is starting to push the tempo more and more in the fast break instead of cautiously slowing down, and changes like these have helped the Spartans go on a 7-0 win streak after losses to two very good UNC and Duke basketball squads.

So should the Spartans be scared to face their upcoming ranked opponent? No, because the Bulldogs are very beatable. Don’t let the 5-1 record fool you too much. Even though Gonzaga’s only loss came against another Big Ten squad—the Fighting Illni—they have beaten Notre Dame and Washington State (both teams that are only one game above .500 right now) and haven’t really played anyone else.

Gonzaga does have Robert Sacre, and the Canadian player has a game that’s tasty like bacon. Get this—he’s averaging almost 17 buckets and 7 boards a game, and he’s already had three double-doubles this season. He’s got some competitors and scouts saying he’s going to be a first-round NBA pick. Playing a hard-nosed Tom Izzo team is a perfect test to see what Mark Few’s team is really made of. On the flip-side, a win for the Spartans could be the momentum boost they need going into the holiday season. As well, this game could earn bragging rights. The Spartans lead the series, overall,  3-1

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