They are known as the Izzone, the student section that can has come to define the basketball experience at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center on the campus of Michigan State University. There is a line to get into the building hours before the tip time and much of the student section is full within minutes of when the doors open an hour and a half before the scheduled game begins.
Gray concrete with accents of green is what you see when you enter the building. This would be just an ordinary looking arena without these students - nothing special.
However, since Tom Izzo took over the program from the legendary Judd Heathcote, the program has gone from solid to superb. It only feels like Michigan State is one of the most historic programs in college basketball history. In truth, prior to Izzo's arrival, the Spartans only reached the Final Four twice (in 1957 and 1979), winning the iconic championship with Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser in '79. Since Izzo, the program has reached the Final Four on 6 occasions ('99, '00, '01, '05, '09, and '10), winning the title in 2000 behind Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson.
You are bound to see a quality team and a fantastic crowd when you see MSU at the Breslin Center. Go grab a turkey drumstick, find your seat, and enjoy the experience!
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
If you simply saunter up to the nearest concession stand, you may be under the impression that the food and drink offered at the Breslin Center is very average indeed. The standard line of Pepsi soda fountains, encased meats, and slightly stale nachos are here, like anywhere else.
But circumnavigate the concourse and you can find the small, Turkeyman stand. Stop here. Take a whiff. Remove your wallet. Eat some quality food. I look forward to the mammoth-sized smoked turkey drumstick ($7). There are also those respectful, or "that-man-is going-down" glances as you go from concourse to your seat, toting the Fred Flintstone portioned protein.
Turkeyman also has turkey sausages, turkey wraps, and pulled turkey BBQ sandwiches ($6 each). The turkey wings (2/$5) are also rather good, and probably easier for one human being to comfortably consume as compared to the drumstick. Plan though, they occasionally sell out, so you want to grab this one earlier. They also only take cash. My last recommendation is to bring some floss or toothpicks, you'll probably need them.
Other treats worth trying are the roasted nuts ($5 or $8), or a Johnsonville sausage ($5) from smaller stands in the concourse. Beverages are offered by Pepsi, with a medium going for $3.50, or a souvenir sized cup for just $4. Coffee, hot chocolate, and cappuccino are available from Tim Horton's for $2/cup, or $6.50 in a souvenir mug.
Much of the atmosphere can be attributed to the energy of the students, but walking in from the south entrance you'll see the large statue of Magic Johnson, which also is a significant tone-setter for your experience. Inside, the concourses are less inspiring, but when you find your seat, and see a full student section, and the remainder of the arena filling, you know you are in for something special.
Eight Final Four banners certainly help enhance that feeling as well. At about 4-5 minutes before tipoff, they play the introductory video on the new LED scoreboard (added in 2011), and those goosebumps surface like they do in all of the great venues in college basketball.
Seating is almost all green plastic seats, with the exception of the metal bleachers in the very top 5 rows of the upper section. There is better than average legroom, but no cupholders at the seats, one of the few flaws of the fan experience. Even the metal bleachers in the top section are more comfortable than you would expect, but be warned, it's an awfully high view from up there.
The Breslin Center is nestled within the heart of the sports complexes at Michigan State. Nearby you will find Spartan Stadium and Munn Ice Arena, among other athletic facilities.
The main drag in East Lansing is along East Grand River Avenue, where you can find several familiar restaurants and bars. I like Dublin Square, which is just off of Grand River on Abbot. They are a fairly typical Irish-style pub, as the name suggests, and offer really good sandwiches, and a decent selection of local and Irish beers.
Another favorite of mine is the Harrison Roadhouse. They serve amazing burgers, and also have a decent beer selection. Both places have plenty of TVs and nearby parking. It is possible to walk to either, but this is Michigan, so it is likely it would be a cold walk of about a mile, so driving is the better option to either location.
These students are some of the very best in all of college basketball. The section is large too, wrapping almost entirely around the floor. They are here early, and show their spirit and energy throughout the game. They are knowledgeable about their basketball, and creative in their cheering. I would buy a ticket just to watch the Izzone in action.
Be in your seat at least 5 minutes before tipoff, not only for the great pre-game video, but also to watch the students welcome their team on to the floor. Pre-game begins, of course, with the playing of the National Anthem, the last time you will hear anything resembling quiet from this crowd. The students silently raise one finger in the air towards the end of the song, corresponding with the lyrics "home of the free."
As the opponents are introduced, the students hold identical newspapers in front of their faces, displaying their lack of interest for their guests. When it is time to introduce the Spartans, those papers are placed aside and arms wrap around the shoulder of their fellow student as they sway back and forth cheering. When the final player is introduced for Michigan State, the students throw their wadded newspapers up in the air, retrieving them in time to throw them again when the home team scores their first basket.
The nearest parking garage can be found just north of Kalamazoo St. on Harrison Rd., and will cost you $10. This is my preferred place to park when I attend a Michigan State sporting event, but I wish the price was $5 instead of $10.
Once inside, the concourses are plenty wide to accommodate the large crowd, but bathrooms in some sections seem unusually small and can cause lines. This is a good venue to sneak away at the under 4-minute time out if you want to grab some food or use the restroom during halftime. That is, if you're willing to miss some game time. Your call.
Most Michigan State games sell out, especially during the Big Ten season, so you are likely going to have to find your ticket from a second hand reseller, whether online or at the game on the nearby sidewalks. Face value for the upper level bleacher seats are $15, and your best bet is to try ScoreBig for second hand sales. This is just one of those experiences where it is well worth your cost, and is not even that expensive. A seat in the lower bowl, sections 126-129 would be ideal, but the 200 section is just fine too.
I will always award an extra point for an arena that hangs a National Championship banner, and Michigan State has two that they can proudly display. The fans are worth an additional point because it's only a 5 point scale, and they deserve a 6 or higher. The pep band is also one of the best you'll find in college basketball. I love the new scoreboard, which looks great, but isn't a gaudy distraction like many news scoreboards are in the sports world. Finally, an extra point for Tom Izzo. He followed a legend, and has become a legend himself. Plus, he is an animated character who is another fun attraction to the experience in his own right.
Michigan State basketball is an experience that every college basketball fan should have on his/her must visit list. The student section is absolutely one of the best in sports, and most seasons you will also get to see a team with Final Four potential. Make the trip to East Lansing and catch a Spartans basketball game.
With the success that Michigan State has had over the past 20 years, it's easy to see why the fans have become a ravenous crew. With high expectations and a devoted following, it's easy to see why the Breslin Center is a great place to catch a college basketball game.
Breslin center is a pretty plain typical basketball arena. Pretty good atmosphere inside.
122 N Harrison Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823
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1100 Trowbridge Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823