The matchup was scheduled for December 7th, as part of a double-header, which would also feature Washington State playing Montana. It would have been a very tough early-season matchup for the Spartans to play at Gonzaga. The Zags lost just one game at home last season and it was against a different Big Ten team — Illinois.
Hollins cited the fact that Michigan State will have their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game just three days earlier, on December 4th against North Carolina. This is a legitimate reason; it seems, as travelling from Michigan to Washington in between a three-day break, sandwiched by playing two very good teams, is not something that would be advantageous at all for the Spartans.
Tom Izzo’s teams are well known for challenging themselves in the non-conference slate. Even without the date with Gonzaga, Michigan Sate still plays Kentucky in Chicago in November, at Texas before starting Big Ten play and obviously, they still host the Tar Heels. Along with these scheduled games, Michigan State will also be participating in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, which always boasts some formidable opponents.
Whether or not Michigan State will now try to add another big name to their non-conference schedule is now a very good question. I would bet that they would, as Izzo clearly knows the importance of challenging his team early in the season, as well as swelling his team’s strength of schedule.