Virginia Tech will be playing one of the best teams in the country in the Maui Invitational.
The Hokies will take on perennial national power Michigan State, which made the Final Four last season, in the first round of the eight-team men’s basketball tournament. The teams will meet at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25 in a game that will air on ESPN2.
The pairings for the tournament were announced Thursday. The participants had previously been announced.
Virginia Tech will face Georgia or Dayton in its second Maui game on Nov. 26. If Tech falls to the Spartans and drops into the losers’ bracket, that game will be at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2. If Tech pulls off the upset of Michigan State and advances to the winners’ bracket, that game will be at 8 p.m. and air on ESPN.
The Hokies will meet Kansas, Chaminade, Brigham Young or UCLA in their final game on Nov. 27, which is the day before Thanksgiving.
Michigan State was ranked No. 1 in Jeff Borzello’s new “Way Too Early Preseason Top 25” on ESPN.com on Wednesday, with Kansas No. 2.
The Spartans were also ranked No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 that Jeff Rothstein of CBS Sports and SI.com did in late June. Kansas was No. 4.
Kansas was No. 1 and Michigan State was No. 2 in the preseason Top 25 that Jeff Goodman of the Stadium sports network did in late June.
Coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans went 32-7 overall and 16-4 in Big Ten play last season. They tied for the Big Ten regular-season title and won the Big Ten tournament.
Had the Hokies beaten Duke in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in March, Michigan State is the team that they would have played next. Michigan State beat Duke in the Elite Eight before falling to Texas Tech in the Final Four.
Three players who started for the Spartans in the Final Four are back.
Point guard Cassius Winston, who averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists last year, is one of the preseason favorites to be named the national player of the year in the upcoming season. He made the Associated Press All-America first team as a junior last season. He was also named the Big Ten player of the year, as well as the most outstanding player of both the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA East Regional.
Aaron Henry (6.1 ppg) and Xavier Tillman (10 ppg, 7.3 rpg) also return. Henry started 22 games and Tillman 14 games last season.
Josh Langford (15 ppg), who suffered a season-ending foot injury in late December, is also back for the Spartans. He started 13 games last season before being sidelined.
Izzo, who steered Michigan State to the NCAA title in 2000, is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Unlike Michigan State, Virginia Tech will enter the upcoming season with low expectations. Tech must replace the top five scorers from last season’s team. Tech also has a new coach, Mike Young.
This will be only the second time the Hokies have ever played the Spartans. Then-No. 1 Michigan State beat Virginia Tech 96-77 in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in November 2013 in Brooklyn, New York.
That was back when James Johnson was the Hokies’ head coach.
The Maui pairing means there will be a Big Ten team on Tech’s nonleague schedule this season after all. Virginia Tech will not be part of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge this year. The Challenge games will be held the week after the Maui Invitational.
While this will be the fifth Maui appearance for the Spartans, it will be just the second one for the Hokies. Virginia Tech was third in the 1985 event.
Georgia went 11-21 overall and 2-16 in the Southeastern Conference last season, which was former Indiana coach Tom Crean’s first year at the helm of the Bulldogs.
Dayton went 21-12 overall and 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 last season. The Flyers fell in the first round of the NIT.