Jan. 7, 2014
THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State hosts Ohio State in the Big Ten home opener for the Spartans. This is the second Top-Five matchup of the year for MSU, who previously defeated No. 1 Kentucky in November. Either the Spartans or Buckeyes have won or shared the regular-season Big Ten Championship in four of the last five years.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Top-Five Matchups
This is just the second-ever Michigan State home game to feature two teams ranked in the Associated Press Top Five. The first meeting came last year when No. 1 Indiana defeated Michigan State, 72-68, on Feb. 19. This is the second Top-Five matchup of the season for MSU, as the No. 2 Spartans defeated No. 1 Kentucky, 78-74, on Nov. 12 in Chicago. All-time, MSU is 4-6 in games featuring two Top-Five teams.
2. Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .486. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in seven games, including a season-high .631 against Mount St. Mary's. Against North Florida, MSU shot 70.8 percent in the first half. MSU has shot better than its opponent in all but one game this season.
3. Renewed Defensive Commitment
Following Michigan State's loss to North Carolina, Coach Izzo took the blame on himself, feeling he overreacted to some of the new rules designed to limit physical play and increase scoring, and vowed to correct that. In the six games since the loss, MSU is holding its opponents to 59.3 points and a .357 field-goal percentage, including .310 from 3-point range. In a related stat regarding MSU's return to basics, the Spartans own a +11.7 rebounding margin over the last six games. During this stretch, MSU has played four games away from home, including at Texas and Indiana.
4. Spartans From The Buckeye State
Michigan State's roster features three players from the Buckeye State: senior Adreian Payne, junior Travis Trice, and redshirt-freshman Kenny Kaminski. Payne led Jefferson Township High School to the 2010 Division IV state championship, earning Division IV Player of the Year honors. Trice was the 2011 Gatorade Ohio Boys Basketball Player of the Year as a senior at Wayne High School. Kaminski earned second-team all-state honors as a prep junior at Medina, before missing most of his senior season with a shoulder injury. Other Spartans from Ohio under coach Tom Izzo include Delvon Roe (Euclid), Raymar Morgan (Canton), Travis Walton (Lima), Andre Hutson (Trotwood), A.J. Granger (Findlay), Jamie Feick (Lexington), Quinton Brooks (Akron), Jason Andreas (Sugarcreek), Adam Wolfe (Westerville), Garrick Sherman (Kenton) and Doug Davis (Columbus).
5. Payne Against The Buckeyes
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Adreian Payne has been a steady performer against Ohio State. In seven career games against the Buckeyes, Payne is averaging 11.0 points, shooting .683 (28-of-41) from the field. His best scoring effort was a 15-point game on 6-of-6 shooting on Feb. 11, 2012, in Columbus, while he grabbed 15 rebounds in Columbus on Feb. 24, 2013. Last season, he averaged 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.
MSU VS. OHIO STATE NOTES
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Ohio State, 66-56, including a 41-17 advantage in games played in Columbus. The Spartans have won 26 of the last 39 games in the series. Tom Izzo is 21-13 in his career against the Buckeyes.
Thad Matta (Butler, `90) is 367-104 in his 14th season as a collegiate head coach, including 265-73 in his 10th season at Ohio State. Prior to his arrival in Columbus, he served as the head coach at Xavier for three seasons and at Butler for one year.
The Last Meeting In East Lansing
Michigan State defeated Ohio State, 59-56, on Jan. 19, in East Lansing. The Spartans got off to a great start, leading 10-0 and 13-2. The Buckeyes responded with a 15-0 run, as Michigan State went 6:37 without a point. The Spartans would make another run and take a 30-26 lead into the half. In the second half, the game was tied at 50 on Deshaun Thomas' sixth 3-pointer with 2:59 remaining. With the game tied at 53 in the final minute, Keith Appling rose to the occasion with a driving layup with 41 seconds left. Aaron Craft then missed an open 3-pointer from the corner. Branden Dawson soared for the rebound and hit a streaking Appling for a breakaway dunk. OSU responded with a transition three, but Appling hit two free throws with 7.9 seconds left to give the Spartans a 59-56 lead. OSU missed its last second 3-pointer, giving MSU the victory. Thomas led all scorers with 28 points, while Appling paced the Spartans with 15.
The Last Meeting
Ohio State defeated Michigan State, 61-58, on March 16, 2013, in Chicago in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. MSU held a narrow 29-28 lead at the half, shooting 48.1 percent and holding OSU to 34.4 percent. The percentages were flipped in the second half, as the Spartans shot just 30.4 percent after halftime, while the Buckeyes shot 52.0 percent from the floor. Michigan State committed 12 turnovers, while Ohio State had just five, a season-low for a Spartan opponent, resulting in an 11-0 edge in points off turnovers for the Buckeyes. Derrick Nix converted on a three-point play to pull MSU within one point at 57-56 with 1:54 remaining. In the ensuing possession, however, Nix intentionally fouled Craft, who hit one free throw. MSU forced a Buckeye miss, but Deshaun Thomas grabbed an offensive rebound, and 30 seconds later he hit a floating jumper to give OSU a 60-56 lead. Nix led MSU with 17 points and nine rebounds while Keith Appling scored 16 points and Adreian Payne added 12. Craft led all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, adding nine assists and four steals.
Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (54.9 ppg), as not a single opponent has reached 70 points this season ... The Buckeyes rank second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense (.369) and first in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.243) ... Aaron Craft (2.5 spg) and Shannon Scott (2.1 spg) rank first and second in the Big Ten in steals ... Craft is the first player in Buckeye history with 1,000 career points, 500 career assists and 200 career steals.
GM. 14 RECAP MICHIGAN STATE 73 - INDIANA 56
Indiana led 9-5 following an early 3-pointer from Yogi Ferrell. The Spartans answered with a 10-0 run, including eight straight points from Gary Harris. In fact, Harris would score 11 straight for MSU in one stretch. Indiana cut MSU's lead to a single point at 25-24 with 2:56 left in the stanza, but the Spartans scored the half's final eight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Harris, to take a 33-24 lead into the half, behind 17 first-half points from Harris. In the second half, MSU opened with a 7-1 run to take a 15-point lead. A 7-0 Hoosier run brought the crowd to life, but a Travis Trice layup and a Keith Appling 3-pointer gave MSU more breathing room. Indiana made one final push, cutting its deficit to nine points. On the Spartans' next possession, they had three offensive rebounds and capped it with a 3-pointer from Harris, who was fouled on the play, and following an IU technical foul he hit two of three free throws for a five-point play. The lead remained in double figures for the final 8:17 of the contest.
MSU VS. INDIANA NOTES
* Gary Harris scored a career-high 26 points, while matching his career high with five steals.
* Michigan State blocked a season-high nine shots, led by three from Matt Costello.
* Indiana natives Gary Harris (26 points) and Branden Dawson (13 points) combined for 39 points against the Hoosiers, including 28 of MSU's 34 first-half points.
* Tom Izzo moved past former Indiana coach Branch McCracken to become the Big Ten's fifth-winningest coach with 211 victories.
* MSU held a 22-12 edge in points off turnovers.
* The 17-point margin was MSU's largest at Bloomington since an 18-point win (75-57) on Jan. 24, 1990.
* MSU opened Big Ten play with two road wins for the first time since 2008-09, and just the second time in school history.
* MSU posted a 7-0 record in its first seven road/neutral games for the first time in school history.
* The Spartan win snapped a three-game win streak in the series for the Hoosiers.
MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Michigan State is 333-47 (.876) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 171-35 (.830) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 259-32 (.890) at Breslin, including a 130-22 (.855) conference record. MSU has won 40 of the last 43 games at Breslin.
Big Ten Home Openers
Over the past 63 seasons, Michigan State has posted a 44-19 mark in Big Ten home openers. Tom Izzo is 16-2 in Big Ten home openers, including winning the last 11.
Three 15-Point Scorers
With Gary Harris (18.2 ppg), Adreian Payne (16.1 ppg) and Keith Appling (15.6 ppg), Michigan State is one of just seven schools in the nation with three 15-point scorers. Other schools include Iowa State, VMI, Delaware, Tulane, Norfolk State and Temple.
Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 18.9 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and leading the nation. With 264 assists on 423 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 62.4 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) (NCAA stats through Jan. 5). Keith Appling is fourth in the conference in assists (4.6 apg) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7). Five Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (4.0 apg), Gary Harris (2.9 apg), Travis Trice (2.5 apg), and Branden Dawson (2.3 apg) join Appling.
Big Ten Success
Michigan State has captured at least a share of the Big Ten Championship in three of the last five seasons. After winning the title outright in 2009, the Spartans shared the conference crown in 2010 and 2012. In 2012, MSU also added a Big Ten Tournament title to its resume. During Tom Izzo's tenure, the Spartans have won seven regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.
Big Ten Success, Part II
Michigan State has won 13 Big Ten Championships, including three of the last five, since joining the league prior to the 1950-51 season. The Spartans' first ever league game was at Northwestern, where MSU claimed a 67-62 victory on Jan. 6, 1951. All-time, MSU is 569-455 (.556) in league play, including 211-95 (.690) under Tom Izzo, who ranks tied for fifth in league history with 210 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to seven of its 13 league crowns. Since Izzo's first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 211-95, 17 games better than second-place Wisconsin (194-112).
Izzo Moves Up Big Ten Coaching List
With MSU's 73-56 win at Indiana, Tom Izzo moved past Indiana's Branch McCracken for fifth place on the career Big Ten victories list with 211. With 211 wins currently, it's likely that Izzo will rank fourth by the end of the season, moving past Illinois' Lou Henson (214 wins). Indiana's Bob Knight is the all-time leader with 353 Big Ten wins.
Rotating Starting Lineup
Michigan State has used seven different starting lineups in the last nine games. Although currently fairly healthy, a large part of the past rotating door has been the various injuries/illnesses to strike the Spartans. Most notably, Gary Harris missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland, North Florida) in a four-game stretch with an ankle injury and also did not start at Texas. However, he's averaging 19.3 points in his last four games. Also of note, Matt Costello started six of the first eight games of the season, but then missed four straight with mononucleosis before playing 12 minutes against Penn State. Branden Dawson sat out the New Orleans game with a shin bruise and Travis Trice missed the North Florida game with foot blisters. In addition, Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) missed significant amounts of practice in early/mid December.
Taking Care Of The Ball
Admittedly it is early, but Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzo era. MSU is currently averaging 11.5 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12.
Payne From Deep
Through the first 87 games of his career, Adreian Payne shot just 1-of-4 from 3-point range. Over the last 34 games, he is 32-of-79 (.405), averaging nearly one made 3-pointer per contest. On eight occasions, including five times this season, he's made more than one in a game.
Four different Spartans have collected a total of 11 double-doubles this season. Branden Dawson (vs. McNeese State 12 pts., 12 reb.; vs. Virginia Tech 12 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oklahoma 18 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oakland 16 pts., 13 reb.; vs. Texas 11 pts., 10 reb.) leads the team with five, while Adreian Payne (vs. McNeese State 10 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Columbia 26 pts., 11 reb.; vs. Virginia Tech 29 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oakland 20 pts., 10 reb.) has four. Gary Harris (vs. McNeese State 20 pts., 10 reb.) and Denzel Valentine (vs. New Orleans 10 points, 13 rebounds) each have one. Dawson ranks second in the Big Ten, while Payne is tied for third.
For the Spartans to maintain their reputation as a strong rebounding team, they will need a strong effort from their guards. In fact, three of MSU's four leading rebounders play on the perimeter. Branden Dawson is averaging a team-best 9.0 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten, from the wing. Denzel Valentine (5.2 rpg) ranks third on the team, while Gary Harris (4.5 rpg) ranks fourth.
Michigan State is shooting .393 from 3-point range (114-of-290), ranking second in the Big Ten. Four Spartans (Gary Harris-29, Keith Appling-25, Travis Trice-20, Adreian Payne-16) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Appling leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.472), while Trice ranks fifth (.444) and Payne ranks ninth (.421). The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in six games, after doing it just once last season. Last season, the Spartans shot .338 from 3-point range, hitting 177-of-523. The 2003-04 squad was the best shooting team of the Tom Izzo era, shooting .401, while the 1989-90 squad shot a school-record .431.
Four different Spartans have scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Keith Appling (27 vs. New Orleans, 27 vs. Oklahoma, 25 vs. Portland, 22 vs. Kentucky, 21 vs. Oakland) leads the way with five 20-point efforts, while Adreian Payne (33 vs. Texas, 29 vs. Virginia Tech, 26 vs. Columbia, 20 vs. Oakland) and Gary Harris (26 vs. Indiana, 21 vs. Oklahoma, 20 vs. McNeese State, 20 vs. Kentucky) each have four. Branden Dawson joined the club with 20 points vs. Penn State in the Big Ten opener.
On The Run
Michigan State is eager to get out in transition this season, even more so than normal. Speaking at MSU's annual media day, Izzo told the assembled media "I think we should be a team that can run, run, run and run." Through 14 games, MSU is averaging 82.6 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten, including 17.9 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.
Spartans At The Charity Stripe
Michigan State is shooting .703 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Appling-62 attempts, .710; Payne-57 attempts, .825; Harris-48 attempts, .896) are each shooting 71 percent or better from the foul line. In fact, the three are shooting a combined .802 (134-167) from the foul line.
Payne's Senior Season
After opting to bypass the NBA Draft and return to Michigan State, Adreian Payne is determined to make the most of his senior season. A preseason first-team All-American as selected by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, and one of 15 players on the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Payne ranks second on the team in scoring (16.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg). He's posted a double-double in four games this season and 10 of the last 25 dating back to last season. Against Texas, he scored a career-high 33 points. He ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in rebounding. He's captured Big Ten Player of the Week honors twice this season (Nov. 18 and Dec. 23).
Appling Runs The Team
Senior Keith Appling is in his third season as Michigan State's starting point guard, gaining more confidence each season. He's finished in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in assists in each of the last two seasons, but he spoke this offseason about becoming better at running his team, gaining praise from Coach Izzo for his development. He's averaging a career-best 4.6 assists per game and owns a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. In a win over No. 1 Kentucky, Appling dished out eight assists, in addition to his 22 points and eight rebounds. Coach Izzo described Appling's 25-point, seven-assist effort vs. Portland "one of the greatest point guard performances in many, many, many years when you look at what he shot and the decisions he made. He did just an unbelievable job defensively ... He was worth the price of admission." He paced MSU with a career-high 27 points vs. Oklahoma, earning Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic MVP honors. He scored a team-high 21 points vs. Oakland, including 18 points in the second half. Recently, he matched his career high with 27 points against New Orleans, adding eight assists, earning co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Dec. 30.
Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of MSU's first of 16 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 177 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (162), Kentucky (155), Duke (154), and Connecticut (143).
Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine are not normally in the starting lineup, but in the eyes of Coach Izzo, they might as well be. Izzo has regularly referred to the duo as "super subs." Valentine ranks sixth on the team in scoring (7.4 ppg) and fifth in minutes (26.6 mpg), while Trice ranks fifth in scoring (7.6 ppg) and sixth in minutes (21.6 mpg). Valentine (4.0 apg) is second in assist average, while Trice (2.5 apg) is fourth.
MSU's dynamic offense has shown the ability to score points in bunches. During the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn, the Spartans closed the first half on both games with large runs. Against Virginia Tech, MSU had a 15-3 run over the final 4:18. The next day, MSU closed the Oklahoma first half on a 34-9 run over the final 10:38, including a 13-0 spurt over the final 4:36. MSU has also shown the ability to start with a burst, opening the Kentucky game with a 10-0 run, and a 9-0 run vs. Columbia. MSU used a 19-2 run over two halves to put Mount St. Mary's away. Against North Florida, MSU opened the contest with a 21-4 spurt, that included an 11-0 run. A 14-2 run midway through the second half turned a two point deficit against Texas into a 10-point lead. In a 53-point win over New Orleans, the Spartans posted a 21-0 second-half run, along with two 12-0 first-half spurts. In the Big Ten opener at Penn State, MSU opened the second half with a 10-0 run, and put the game away with a 20-3 spurt. At Indiana, MSU had a 15-1 run over the final 2:48 of the first half and first 2:24 of the second half, after a 10-0 run earlier in the first half.
An Efficient Harris
Following a season that saw him earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, Gary Harris is looking for an even better season as a sophomore. After opting to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season rather than enter the NBA Draft, Harris enters 2013-14 as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honoree and a popular pick for preseason All-America accolades. He opened the season by recording his first career double-double with 20 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing out a career-high six assists. He followed that effort with another 20-point contest against No. 1 Kentucky. He leads the team in scoring and ranks second in the Big Ten, averaging 18.2 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in four games. He missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland and North Florida) while resting an injured ankle, but is averaging 19.3 points in four games since his return.
Michigan State has held opponents below 40 percent shooting for the year in each of the last two seasons, limiting opponents to .390 FG% last year (ranking 22nd in the nation) and .379 FG% in 2011-12 (ranking second in the nation). It's the first time the Spartans have held opponents below 40 percent in back-to-back seasons since MSU did it three straight seasons from 1999-2000 to 2001-02. MSU's first 14 opponents are shooting .377 from the floor, ranking third in the Big Ten, including .317 from 3-point range, ranking seventh.
Dawson's Energy On Display
Branden Dawson didn't miss a game last season despite tearing his ACL at the end of his freshman year, and yet he wasn't functioning at 100 percent. Early indications in 2013-14 are that Dawson is a much more active player, exhibiting the rare combination of strength and athleticism that rank him among the Big Ten's elite. He is currently averaging a team-best 9.0 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten and leading the team in nine of 13 games in which he's played, and 11.2 points. His tip-in with five seconds remaining sealed the win over No. 1 Kentucky. Dawson leads the team with five double-doubles. He also ranks third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.610).
Payne's Block Party
Senior Adreian Payne ranks second in Michigan State history with 128 career blocks, just six behind MSU career leader Drew Naymick (134 blocks). Payne blocked a career-best five shots in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament against Memphis, en route to 46 on the season, good for the sixth-best single-season effort in school history.
Nation's Best Backcourt
With Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson in the starting lineup and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine coming off the bench, Michigan State stakes a strong claim for having the nation's best backcourt. All five rank among MSU's top six in scoring, while Appling, Harris, Dawson and Trice have each scored 20 or more points at least once during their career. Not only are they dynamic offensively, they also can provide lockdown defense.
It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 14 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 nine times and the Top 25 on 12 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in conference games in 11 of the last 16 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 487 of 631 opponents (.772), posting a 387-100 (.795) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +6.9 rebounding margin, ranking third in the Big Ten, and has out-rebounded 10 of 14 opponents.
MSU returns six of its top seven scorers from last season, in featuring one of the nation's most experienced rosters to start the season. The Spartans return 84.2 percent of their scoring, 79.3 percent of their rebounding and 84.0 percent of their assists. Five returning Spartans started 15 or more games last season, including four with 24 or more starts. Six returners played 500 or more minutes last season. By comparison, entering last year, just five Spartans had played more than 350 minutes in their career.
Robertson Trophy Watch List
Senior forward Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Gary Harris are two of 15 players named to the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy Preseason Watch List. The preseason watch list was selected by the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Michigan State is the only school with two players on the list of 15. The award will be presented to the national player of the year by its namesake at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14, 2014 in Oklahoma City. The Big Ten leads all conference with four candidates as Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Michigan's Mitch McGary are also on the list.
MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are currently ranked tied for No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and No. 5 in the Associated Press Top 25. Five Spartan opponents are also ranked in at least one of the polls, including Ohio State (3 AP/3 USA Today), Wisconsin (4/t-4), Kentucky (14/16), Iowa (20/23) and Illinois (23/-).
Wooden And Naismith Award Watch Lists
Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne have each earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. The Spartans are one of four schools to have at least three players on the list. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 10 players on the list of 50. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the midseason list and the official voting ballot, which will consist of approximately 20 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA. The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation's top 10 players, will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. Harris and Payne have also been named to the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List.
Cousy Award Watch List
Senior Keith Appling is one of 47 players on the watch list of candidates for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. The annual honor, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guards in men's college basketball. This watch list of candidates will be narrowed down to a final 20 in early February, then final five by early March. The Cousy Award winner will be
presented the award on Championship Monday in Dallas at the Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 Announcement and Press Conference.
1,000 Point Scorers
Last season, Keith Appling became the 43rd player in Michigan State history to record 1,000 career points, and just the 29th player to reach the milestone in three seasons. With 1,337 career points, he ranks 23rd in MSU career scoring, 40 points behind Julius McCoy (1,377 points). With 948 points, Adreian Payne is on pace to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.
The Fifth Starter
Most of Michigan State's starting lineup is pretty-much etched in stone as Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne all return from the 2012-13 starting lineup. But the fifth spot is a little bit more unsettled. Sophomore Matt Costello has been the starter in six games, but redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling are also in contention for the spot. The trio is averaging a combined 6.9 points and 7.3 rebounds.
MSU At No. 1
Earlier this season, Michigan State held the No. 1 spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls for three straight weeks for the first time in school history. Although the Spartans have been ranked in the Top 10 in 15 of Tom Izzo's 19 seasons, and the Top 5 in 11 seasons, this was just the second season under Coach Izzo, and just the third time in school history that MSU has held the top spot in the AP Top 25, having previously been ranked No. 1 for two weeks in both 1978-79 and 2000-01. The Spartans have an all-time record of 9-4 at No. 1.
Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball, an honor bestowed on it by ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman on Nov. 5. Four conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 3 Ohio State, t-No. 4 Michigan State, t-No. 4 Wisconsin, and t-No. 23 Iowa. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.
Michigan State was announced as a unanimous preseason favorite for the conference championship at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Oct. 31. Michigan was picked to finish second and Ohio State was third. Spartan sophomore Gary Harris was tabbed the preseason player of the year, and senior Adreian Payne joined Harris on the preseason All-Big Ten squad.
Michigan State could feature as many as three freshmen in its playing group, including red-shirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, and true freshmen Alvin Ellis III and Gavin Schilling. Kaminski redshirted last season following a shoulder injury he suffered last fall. He provides a big man with excellent shooting ability for the Spartans. Ellis III and Schilling were actually prep teammates as juniors at Chicago De La Salle High School before Schilling transferred to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his senior season. Ellis III provides a solid all-around presence on the perimeter, while Schilling provides great strength and quickness in the post. Both Ellis III and Schilling were added during the spring signing period in 2013.
THE BOOK ON Tom Izzo
In his 19th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 452-179 (.716), and 211-95 (.690) in the Big Ten, as the coach of the Michigan State basketball program. He ranks as the winningest coach in Michigan State history, having passed his mentor Jud Heathcote with his 341st career victory on Nov. 28, 2009. In his 18 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has captured eight National Coach of the Year awards, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001 and 2012. In 1999, Izzo was named National Coach of the year by Basketball Times, while earning similar honors from The Associated Press, Basketball News and the USBWA in '98. He also earned National Coach of the Year accolades from CBSSports.com in 2012. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012.
Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .690 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (.709), and former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.730), Izzo (.716), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 211 conference victories, Izzo ranks fifth all-time.
Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 18 seasons, Tom Izzo won 439 games, ranking fourth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 18 years.
Izzo's Coaching Tree
Five current Division I head coaches all served as assistants to Tom Izzo, including Tom Crean (Indiana), Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech), Stan Heath (South Florida), Mark Montgomery (Northern Illinois) and Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston). Mike Garland served as head coach at Cleveland State for three seasons and Stan Joplin, an assistant during Izzo's first season, spent 12 seasons as head coach at Toledo. Jim Boylen was head coach at Utah for four years.