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No. 1 Michigan State, which opens the college basketball season vs. No. 2 Kentucky, is willing to sacrifice for a special season. In 2019, that means deleting Twitter.

Chicago Tribune — By Teddy Greenstein Chicago Tribune

Nov. 04-- You might choose to give up red meat for Lent. A boxer might pass on, uh, hanky-panky before a fight.

Top-ranked Michigan State is making a different kind of sacrifice as it embarks on the college basketball season, beginning Tuesday night against No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

Want to guess what it is? Keep in mind, this is 2019.

"We had a team meeting," forward Xavier Tillman said. "We figured: OK, in order to reach our goal to win a national championship, we have to sacrifice something that means a lot to everybody."

Bye-bye, Twitter. You've been blocked.

"The hope, the goal, is to delete it off our phones," Tillman said. "If we catch you liking a photo or retweeting, it's gonna be bad."

The idea: Care less about what @sparty4life thinks about your game. And more about what your coaches and teammates do.

Coach Tom Izzo ?s this idea.

It's very on-brand considering Izzo has no social media presence and is forever harping on the "distractions" affecting today's players.

"I'm very happy, but they have all these other things, Snapchat and ... what are the other ones?" he said. "Twitter is something. I don't like when they read what other people say because I think that screws up kids. What kids have to go through now ... before, it was beat the hell out of people and play hard."

No, this is not a football coach talking.

This is a basketball coach who emphasizes toughness and thinks he might have the right combination of players to produce a special season. The Big Ten hasn't won a national championship in men's basketball since the Spartans topped Florida in 2000.

But Izzo made his eighth Final Four last season with a crew that's largely intact, save for forward Nick Ward and marksman Matt McQuaid.

"He's a guy who has it all," Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston said of Izzo, 64. "There's nothing he hasn't accomplished and he's still humble. He still feels like he has the world to conquer. We follow his lead."

Winston said that although Michigan State is ranked first in the preseason for the first time in school history, the players won't get cocky.

"If you look at our team, we don't have any top-10 draft picks," he pointed out. "Collectively, as a team, we're really good. But individually we all have stuff to prove and a chip on our shoulder."

The Associated Press pollsters put the Spartans on top hours before the team announced a major setback: Guard Joshua Langford, who forms something of a "Big Three" with Tillman and Winston, will not take the floor until at least January. Langford missed all but 13 games last season with a left foot/ankle injury that has not healed.

"Breaks my heart," Izzo said upon revealing the news Oct. 22. "I love Josh Langford. He's given me everything on the court, off the court, in the classroom."

Langford is an ace scorer and strong perimeter defender who is viewed as the team's spiritual leader.

The silver lining is that Langford could return in time to get in shape for March Madness, while other Spartans will have the opportunity to develop during his absence. The team is high on Gabe Brown, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who can rebound and shoot from long range.

Winston will run the show after becoming the first AP All-America guard to return to college since Duke's J.J. Redick in 2005-06.

Tillman thought Winston was a goner. He even encouraged his teammate to go pro in group text chats.

"I thought he did it all, accomplished everything," Tillman said. "It means so much to have our floor general back."

Izzo thought Winston might stay, saying: "One, I know enough people in the NBA to know where they thought he was. Two, he has a mother who thinks he should get his master's done and probably his doctorate started-and I'm dead serious."

Said Winston: "It was a tough decision but also an easy one. Coming back definitely won't hurt me. It can only help me."

Winston returns to a team that got 60 of the AP's 65 votes as America's top team. The Spartans will be tested right away against the Wildcats in Tuesday's Champions Classic nightcap at Madison Square Garden. No. 3 Kansas plays No. 4 Duke in the first game.

"I think it's a privilege, I do," Izzo said of the top ranking. "We can't look at this as a burden. We have earned the right to be 1. They flipped a coin, and this time, the coin turned green."

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