Michigan State to play charity exhibition vs. Georgia in Grand Rapids for disaster relief

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Dec 12, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; General view of a basketball on the court during the 2nd half of a game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Florida Gators at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still a little less than three weeks away from opening night in college basketball. A lot of teams have begun practicing and teams will soon be holding exhibitions.

The Michigan State Spartans, preseason No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, will have two such preseason contests prior to their season opener at home against North Florida. The team, however, announced a third exhibition game to be played, in conjunction with Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids and the NCAA.

This Sunday October 29, Michigan State will welcome in the Georgia Bulldogs to Grand Rapids for a charity exhibition.

All proceeds will go towards awareness and financial support to those in need of hurricane relief, particularly those who were affected in Caribbean Islands and the southeastern region of the country. Ticket sales will benefit the American Red Cross foundations serving the Georgia Region as well as the Int’l Services branch.

“This is a great opportunity for our programs to help make an impact with the relief and rebuilding efforts in areas that were affected by this summer’s hurricanes,” MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo said. “We look forward to playing back in Grand Rapids where we have a strong fan base. They’ll see us play a very good Georgia team that is very well coached and features a great player in Yante Maten, who’s returning to his home state. Combining a competitive basketball game with a worthy cause makes for an outstanding event.”

The NCAA granted a waiver for both schools to play an additional exhibition for the primary purpose going towards disaster relief. It’s a move that has been taken advantage off by various schools across the country so far. Rarely if ever do programs hold exhibition contests against fellow Division I foes, but in instances like this, such moves are widely accepted and encouraged.

The outpouring of teams requesting waivers for additional preseason tilts is a direct response to a statement the NCAA made back in September encouraging programs to partake in games that will aid in relief efforts.

This will be just the third game that Michigan State has played all-time at Van Andel Arena and the first one since 2006. It’s also the second ever meeting between the Spartans and Bulldogs. They last met in the Round of 64 of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, with MSU picking up a 70-63 win. Georgia last season finished 19-15 overall, qualifying for the NIT.

Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox expressed his gratitude to MSU and head coach Tom Izzo for the opportunity.

“This is a unique opportunity allowed this year by the NCAA to help with disaster relief,” Georgia Head Coach Mark Fox said. “With our fans headed to Jacksonville, the only option to really help was to play a road game. We had schools contact us about, but adding a road game in short notice seemed more difficult than needed. But this is an opportunity to help the people of the state of Georgia. Hurricane Irma had a significant impact on the DawgNation. So with generous support from President Morehead and Greg McGarity, we have arranged to play at Michigan State. I want to thank Coach Izzo and the administration of MSU for helping to put this together so quickly.”

There will be a bit of local flair when Georgia comes rolling in. The Bulldogs possess defending co-player of the year in the SEC in Yante Maten, a 6-8 forward native of Pontiac, Michigan and a product of Bloomfield Hills High School. Also, head coach Tom Izzo has a nephew, Matt Bucklin, who is Georgia’s operations coordinator for the hoops team.

The Spartans will first play a tune-up at home on Friday, October 27 against Ferris State before making the drive out to Grand Rapids. [Click here to view the entire 2017-18 schedule for MSU.]

The game this Sunday is tabbed for a 3 p.m. ET tip-off. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, October 25 and can be obtained at a) Van Andel Arena box office, b) DeVos Place box office, c) Ticketmaster.com, or d) by calling 1.800.745.3000. Ticket prices are subject to change.