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Pre-game preview: Michigan State

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published November 09. 2012 1:00PM   Updated November 09. 2012 5:49PM

College basketball season has finallly arrived.

UConn opens up by playing 14th-ranked Michigan State tonight in the Armed Forces Classic at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Game time is 6 p.m. (midnight, German time). ESPN starts its coverage at 5:30.

The basketball court set up in Hangar 5 holds about 3,100 fans.

It will be the first time in 26 years that UConn will open a season with a head coach other than Jim Calhoun. Kevin Ollie makes his debut.

Here's some basic info about the season opener:

Probable starters:

UConn:

6-1 jr. guard Shabazz Napier

6-0 so. guard Ryan Boatright

6-2 fr. guard Omar Calhoun

6-8 so. forward DeAndre Daniels

6-9 jr. forward Tyler Olander

Michigan State

6-1 jr. guard Keith Appling

6-4 fr. guard Gary Harris

6-6 so. guard Branden Dawson

6-10 jr. forward Adreian Payne

6-9 sr. center Derrick Nix

Noteworthy:

-- The Spartans return two starters from last year's Big 10 champion and NCAA Sweet Sixteen that went 29-8. Appling is the top returning scorer at 11.4 points per game.

-- Series history: Tied 2-2. The Huskies won last meeting, 70-67, in 2010 Maui Invitational.

-- Napier is only returning Husky to average in double figures last season at 13.0.

-- Omar Calhoun led UConn in scoring in two exhibition wins over Division II teams, averaging 22 points.

-- MSU's inside muscle a concern. Payne (240 pounds) and Nix (270) will be tough to move in the low post. Olander and Daniels, UConn's two starting frontcourt players, check in at 225 and 195 pounds, respectively.

-- The Spartans ranked in top 10 nationally in rebounding margin in eight of the previous 13 seasons They were second in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 37.9 percent.

-- UConn went 22-4 in season openers under Calhoun. Michigan State has won 33 of its last 35 openers.

-- Both teams will wear camouflaged uniforms.

-- Best advice: Watch the ESPN broadcast and listen to WTIC. Joe D. will have Jim Calhoun as his guest analyst. It is must listen radio.

-- This UConn video will help get you pumped up for the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkrnv4oN5ZE&sns=tw

Talking Huskies

Michigan State Tom Izzo talked about the Huskies during a press conference prior to leaving for Germany.

-- "I got a chance to meet him this summer with Jim Calhoun on a couple of different trips," Izzo said of Ollie. He's a great guy. I kind of can relate to what he's going through to a certain extend taking over for a guy who's been there for a long time.

Izzo, who's in his 18th season, replaced Jud Heathcote at Michigan State. Heathcote attended Izzo's first game, as Michigan State beat Chaminade, 69-66, in the Maui Invitational.

Calhoun will be courtside tonight watching Ollie's debut.

-- "They've got a couple of very, very good players," Izzo said. "Their two guards are not good but great. Napier who we played against before in Maui and then you have Boatright who's a guy who was a big time recruit and started a lot as a freshman.

"… Everybody talks about what they lost. And they did lose one of their big guys who transferred. But this is still a very good team coming back. … So we're going to have our work cut out for us, no question about it."

-- Ollie on the season opener:

"I'm excited. I'm excited for this team. … I'm excited to play for our great university. Hopefully we can go out and execute the things we've been trying to do in practice offensively and defensively."

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