Michigan State Welcomes Minnesota To Breslin Center
Spartans host Golden Gophers and first-year coach Richard Pitino on Saturday.
Jan. 10, 2014
|#5/t-4 Michigan State (14-1, 3-0) vs. Minnesota (13-3, 2-1)|
|Date||Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013|
|Time||2:15 p.m. ET|
|Location||East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center|
|Television||BTN (Eric Collins, Jim Jackson)|
|Radio||Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)|
|Game Notes||Michigan State | Minnesota|
|Statistics||Michigan State | Minnesota|
|Internet Coverage||Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)|
|Social Media||@MSU_Basketball | Facebook|
THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State looks to remain atop the Big Ten standings as it welcomes Minnesota to Breslin Center. MSU enters the game riding a seven-game winning streak. This will be the only meeting of the regular season between the Spartans and Gophers.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 18.7 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking third in the nation. With 280 assists on 449 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 62.4 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten and 13th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) (NCAA stats through Jan. 5). Keith Appling is third in the conference in assists (4.7 apg) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4). Five Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (4.1 apg), Gary Harris (2.9 apg), Travis Trice (2.5 apg), and Branden Dawson (2.1 apg) join Appling.
2. Harris Shooting Better
Gary Harris struggled with his outside shot to open the season, connecting on just .276 (16-58) of his 3-pointers through his first seven games. But since returning from his ankle injury, he is shooting .469 (15-32) from behind the arc over the last five games, including .556 (10-18) in Big Ten action. Last season, Harris led the Spartans in 3-point percentage (.411), including .472 in Big Ten play.
3. Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .484. 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.
4. 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 seven games since the loss, MSU is holding its opponents to 60.6 points and a .365 field-goal percentage, including .299 from 3-point range. In a related stat regarding MSU's return to basics, the Spartans own a +8.0 rebounding margin over the last seven games. During this stretch, MSU has played four games away from home, including at Texas and Indiana, and owns a home win over No. 3 Ohio State.
5. Three 15-Point Scorers
With Gary Harris (17.8 ppg), Adreian Payne (16.2 ppg) and Keith Appling (15.9 ppg), Michigan State is one of just eight schools in the nation with three 15-point scorers. Other schools include Iowa State, VMI, Delaware, Tulane, Norfolk State, Cal. State-Northridge and Temple.
MSU VS. MINNESOTA NOTES
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Minnesota, 64-58, including a 40-19 advantage in games played in East Lansing. The Spartans have won 13 of the last 15, 18 of the last 21, and 23 of the last 28 meetings. MSU has won the last 14 meetings at Breslin Center. Tom Izzo has a 26-9 all-time record against the Golden Gophers.
Richard Pitino (Providence, 2005) is 31-17 in his second season as a collegiate head coach, including 13-3 in his first season with Minnesota. Last season, he led Florida International to its first winning season since 2000. The year before, he was associate head coach under his father Rick at Louisville, helping guide the Cardinals to 2012 Final Four, beating No. 1 seed Michigan State in the Sweet 16. His career also includes stints as an assistant at Northeastern (2006), Duquesne (2007), Louisville (2008-09) and Florida (2010-11).
The Last Meeting
Michigan State defeated Minnesota, 61-50, on Feb. 6, 2013, in East Lansing. The Spartans took a 13-6 lead at the 10:06 mark, but then did not score again for the next 6:42. Minnesota's Joe Coleman hit a 3-pointer from the corner right before the buzzer to give the Golden Gophers a 20-18 halftime advantage. Minnesota extended its lead out to five points at 25-20 just over two minutes into the second half. MSU responded with a 21-4 run over the next 7:56, hitting five 3-pointers during the spurt. Minnesota made one final push, narrowing MSU's lead to 49-45 with 2:49 remaining, but MSU would score the game's next seven points to secure the win. Gary Harris led MSU with 15 points, while Keith Appling added 14. Andre Hollins was the only Gopher in double figures with 11 points.
Golden Gopher Notes
Minnesota leads the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (.753) and steals (8.4 spg) ... Junior Elliott Eliason ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.5 rpg) ... Both senior Austin Hollins and junior Andre Hollins have scored 1,000 points during their Minnesota careers ... Three Gophers (An. Hollins, Au. Hollins, Malik Smith) have made 30 or more 3-pointers.
GM. 15 RECAP MICHIGAN STATE 72 - OHIO STATE 68, OT
The Spartans created the game's first separation right before the half with a 7-0 run over the final 2:49, including back-to-back baskets from Adreian Payne and a 3-pointer from Kenny Kaminski, to take a 28-21 lead. Leading 37-32 with 13:50 remaining, MSU appeared to put the game away with a 13-2 run over the next 3:37. At the 8:02 mark, a Keith Appling layup pushed MSU's lead up to 17 points at 55-38. To that point, MSU had six turnovers for the game, but committed 10 in the final 7:14 of the second half. Ohio State closed on a 20-3 run to force overtime. The Buckeyes had a shot to win at the buzzer as Shannon Scott stole the ball and had a breakaway layup but missed due to Appling's defense and Payne cleared it off the glass. In the extra stanza, OSU led 60-59 and appeared to have all the momentum. Kaminski gave the lead and momentum back to MSU, knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key. On the Spartans' next possession, Payne knocked down a transition three of his own. Still, OSU fought back and tied the game at 66 on a Sam Thompson 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining. Running the shot clock down to the final seconds, Appling put MSU ahead for good with a 3-pointer. He then sealed the win by knocking down 3-of-4 free throws in the final 14 seconds, and forced OSU's game-tying attempt to be off balance while also securing the defensive rebound.
MSU VS. OHIO STATE NOTES
* Michigan State recorded its 12th straight victory in a Big Ten home opener, improving to 17-2 under Tom Izzo.
* Keith Appling led the Spartans in points (20) and assists (7) and tied for the team lead in rebounds (6).
* It was the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and Ohio State with both teams ranked in the Associated Press Top Five.
* Michigan State handed Ohio State its first loss of the season.
* Michigan State shot a season-high 57.9 percent from 3-point range (11-of-19).
* The Spartans were the first team to score 70 points in a game against Ohio State.
* Michigan State tied its season high with 17 turnovers, but also forced 21 Buckeye turnovers, the most for any Spartan opponent, and a season high for OSU. Ohio State entered the game averaging just 10.3 turnovers per contest.
* Adreian Payne did not start due to a foot sprain, scoring four points in nine first-half minutes, but scored 14 points after the half, playing 23 of a possible 25 minutes.
* Kenny Kaminski scored a season-high nine points, knocking down three 3-pointers.
* MSU limited OSU's two leading scorers, LaQuinton Ross (13.6 ppg) and Lenzelle Smith Jr., (12.7 ppg), to a combined 12 points, five and seven respectively.
* MSU committed six turnovers in the first 32:46 of the game, but had 10 in the final 7:14 of the second half, although just one in overtime.
MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Michigan State is 334-47 (.877) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 172-35 (.831) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 260-32 (.890) at Breslin, including a 131-22 (.856) conference record. MSU has won 41 of the last 44 games at Breslin.
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 11.9 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. The Spartans are 9-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent.
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 570-455 (.556) in league play, including 212-95 (.691) under Tom Izzo, who ranks fifth in league history with 212 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 212-95, 17 games better than second-place Wisconsin (195-112).
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 212 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 10 games, although it has used the same one the last three games. 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 and the Ohio State game due to illness. In addition, Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) missed significant amounts of practice in early/mid December, while Payne is currently dealing with a foot sprain.
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 35 games, he is 34-of-82 (.415), averaging nearly one made 3-pointer per contest. On nine occasions, including six 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, four of MSU's five leading rebounders play on the perimeter. Branden Dawson is averaging a team-best 8.6 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten, from the wing. Denzel Valentine (5.3 rpg) ranks third on the team, Gary Harris (4.5 rpg) ranks fourth and Keith Appling ranks fifth (3.5 rpg).
Michigan State is shooting .405 from 3-point range (125-of-309), leading the Big Ten. Four Spartans (Gary Harris-31, Keith Appling-27, Travis Trice-20, Adreian Payne-18) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Appling leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.482), while Trice ranks fifth (.444) and Payne ranks seventh (.439). The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in seven games, after doing it just once last season, ranking third in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals per game (8.3). 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, 20 vs. Ohio State) leads the way with six 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 15 games, MSU is averaging 81.9 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 .700 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Appling-70 attempts, .714; Payne-61 attempts, .803; Harris-50 attempts, .880) are each shooting 71 percent or better from the foul line. In fact, the three are shooting a combined .790 (143-181) 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 (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg). He's posted a double-double in four games this season and 10 of the last 26 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 4.7 assists per game and owns a 2.4 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. In an overtime win against No. 3 Ohio State, Appling led the Spartans in scoring (20 points) and assists (7) and tied for the team lead in rebounds (6).
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 178 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 (7.3 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 (4.1 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. A 13-2 second half run seemed to give MSU enough of a cushion against Ohio State.
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 entered 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 18.0 points in five 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 15 opponents are shooting .380 from the floor, ranking third in the Big Ten, including .311 from 3-point range, ranking sixth.
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 8.6 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten and leading the team in nine of 14 games in which he's played, and 10.7 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 (.606).
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 632 opponents (.771), posting a 387-100 (.795) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +5.5 rebounding margin, ranking third in the Big Ten, and has out-rebounded 10 of 15 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 1,357 career points, he ranks 23rd in MSU career scoring, 20 points behind Julius McCoy (1,377 points). With 966 points, Adreian Payne is likely to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.
MSU's Center Rotation
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 should MSU elect to go with a big lineup. The trio is averaging a combined 6.3 points and 6.7 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 453-179 (.717), and 212-95 (.691) 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 .691 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 (.710), 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 (.731), Izzo (.717), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 212 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.