Big Ten Unbeatens Set To Battle On Saturday Night
 
 
 
The Spartans host Michigan in a battle of Big Ten unbeatens on Saturday night.
 
The Spartans host Michigan in a battle of Big Ten unbeatens on Saturday night.
 
 

Jan. 24, 2014

#3/3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0) vs. #21/t-25 Michigan (14-4, 6-0)
 Date Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014
 Time 7 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Shannon Spake)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Game Notes Michigan State
 Statistics  Michigan State | Michigan
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State hosts Michigan in a battle of the top two teams in the Big Ten Conference standings. In fact, this is the first-ever meeting with both teams standing at least 6-0 in conference play.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY AND WHITE-OUT INFORMATION
Michigan State students and fans are invited to the Breslin Center Saturday morning, Jan. 25, to watch a live broadcast of ESPN College GameDay. Host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, and Jalen Rose are making their third trip to East Lansing in the show's history. In the morning, the set will be located at center court of the Breslin Center. Gates A & B will open to the general public at 8 a.m. and admission is free. The Izzone may enter through Gate C beginning at 7:30 a.m. From 10-11 a.m., College GameDay will air on ESPNU, followed by a second live hour from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on ESPN. Fans are also encouraged to wear white for both College GameDay and the game itself as a uniform show of support for the Spartans.

THE STARTING FIVE
1. Harris' Efficiency

Gary Harris has been the very definition of efficiency in the last two games, totaling 47 points on 22 field-goal attempts. Against Illinois and Indiana, Harris averaged 23.5 points on 15-of-22 field goals (.681), including 6-of-10 from 3-point range (.600), while also hitting 11-of-14 free throws (.786). In Big Ten play, Harris is shooting .462 from the field and .405 from 3-point range, a marked improvement from the start of the season, when he connected on just .276 (16-58) of his 3-pointers through his first seven games while still nursing a sprained ankle.

2. Appling Paces The Big Ten
Keith Appling has elevated his all-around play as a senior and is proving to be among the most dominating performers in the Big Ten, and, in fact, the country. Appling leads the conference with four games in which he's tallied at least 20 points and seven assists. The rest of the conference has just four occasions, and Appling ranks tied for third in the country, trailing Providence's Bryce Cotton (6) and Green Bay's Keifer Sykes (5). The Spartan senior also paces the Big Ten with three games of at least 20 points, 7 assists and five rebounds, ranking tied for second in the nation, trailing only Delaware's Jarvis Threatt (4). (National totals through games of Jan. 19.)

3. More Than Just A Scorer
Gary Harris gets a lot of notoriety for his scoring, as he ranks second in the Big Ten (18.3 ppg). But what makes him special is his ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the court, leading the Spartans with 34 steals, ranking third in the conference (2.1 spg). He's elevated his defensive effort in Big Ten action, totaling 22 steals to pace the conference (3.1 spg). In fact, since returning to the starting lineup on Dec. 28, he has totaled 27 steals (3.4 spg).

4. Spartan Defense
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 19 opponents are shooting .379 from the floor, ranking second in the Big Ten, including .313 from 3-point range, ranking seventh. In conference games, MSU ranks first in scoring defense (61.4 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.386), blocks (6.9 bpg) and steals (8.6 spg).

5. Spartans Off To Record Start
With an 18-1 record, the 2013-14 Spartans are off to their best one-loss start in school history. The 1931 squad finished the season at 16-1, while the 2001 team was 16-1 before dropping its 18th game at Ohio State. MSU is off to a 7-0 start in Big Ten play for just the third time in school history. It opened with a 7-0 mark in 1978 and a school-best 9-0 in 2010.

MSU VS. MICHIGAN NOTES
Series History

Michigan leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 95-76, although MSU owns a 47-36 advantage in games played in East Lansing. MSU has won 20 of the last 27 games overall. Tom Izzo is 20-12 in his career against the Wolverines.

Coach Beilein
John Beilein (Butler, `90) is 687-407 in his 36th season as a collegiate head coach, including 135-89 in his seventh season at Michigan. His coaching career also includes stints at West Virginia, Richmond, Canisius, LeMoyne, Nazareth and Erie Community College.

The Last Meeting
Michigan defeated Michigan State, 58-57, on March 3, 2013, in Ann Arbor. MSU threatened to pull away late in the first half, taking a 31-24 lead with 1:03 remaining. Michigan, however, scored two late baskets, and trailed by just three points at the half, 31-28. The Wolverines opened the second half on an 8-0 run, while MSU committed four turnovers and missed 0-of-4 shots in the first five minutes. UM extended the lead to 52-42 with 4:36 left. MSU responded with a 14-4 spurt over the next 3:42 to tie the game at 56. Keith Appling capped the run with two free throws, following his steal of Trey Burke. The Spartans then forced another Wolverine turnover, gaining control of the ball with 32 seconds left. Appling dribbled up court and prepared to call timeout, but, before he could signal, Burke stole the ball and raced downcourt for a dunk. MSU still had a chance to tie the game as Nix went to the foul line with 8.8 seconds left, but he hit just one of two shots. After UM missed the front end of a one-and-one, MSU had another opportunity to win, but Burke recorded a game-clinching steal. MSU shot a season-low .356 from the field and UM turned 18 Spartan turnovers into 18 points. Adreian Payne led MSU with 17 points and 16 rebounds, while Gary Harris added 16 points. Trey Burke led all players with 21 points and eight assists.

The Last Meeting In East Lansing
Michigan State defeated Michigan, 75-52, on Feb. 12, 2013, in East Lansing. The Spartans scored the game's first four points and never trailed or were even tied. Leading 15-12 midway through the first half, the Spartans used a 20-7 run over nearly 10 minutes to take a commanding 35-19 lead. The lead never dipped below 12 points in the second half as a 10-2 run early in the stanza gave MSU a 52-31 lead, putting the game out of reach. At one point in the second half, the Spartans led by as many as 31 points. The story of the game was MSU's energy, both defensively, holding UM to 39.6 percent shooting, and on the glass, out-rebounding Michigan, 41-30. Gary Harris led four Spartans in double figures with his 17 points. Trey Burke led all scorers with 18 points, but was one of just two Wolverines to score more than five points.

Wolverine Notes
Nik Stauskas leads the Big Ten in scoring at 18.5 ppg, while also leading the team in assists (3.8 apg) ... Michigan leads the Big Ten in 3-point field goals made per contest at 8.4 ... The Wolverines are the top shooting team in the conference at .487, while also pacing the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7).

GM. 19 RECAP • MICHIGAN STATE 71 - INDIANA 66
Indiana opened on a 5-0 run, but for the rest of the half, neither team would lead by more than three points, as the Hoosiers took a narrow 28-27 lead into the break. The same held true for the early stages of the second half. Indiana threatened to take control midway through the half, holding a 46-41 lead with 11:54 remaining. Gary Harris then scored five straight points to tie the game, and after a Hoosier basket, a three-point play by Branden Dawson gave the Spartans the lead for good at 49-48. Dawson then grabbed a defensive rebound and found a streaking Denzel Valentine for a three-point play of his own. By the 4:29 mark, MSU had pushed the lead out to 10 points at 62-52 with a 21-6 run. Indiana cut the lead to three points twice in the final 20 seconds, but both times, MSU made two free throws to maintain a safe lead.

MSU VS. INDIANA NOTES
* The game featured 15 lead changes - the most for any Spartan contest this season.
* Gary Harris scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.
* With 24 points, Harris is averaging 22.5 points in four career games against Indiana.
* Harris matched his career best with five steals.
* MSU outscored Indiana, 22-8, in fast break points.
* MSU improved to 7-0 in Big Ten play for just the third time in school history.
* MSU improved to 6-0 when trailing at the half.
* MSU held Indiana without a field goal for a 7:11 stretch late in the second half.

MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Rotating Starting Lineup

Michigan State has used nine different starting lineups in the last 14 games. A large part of the rotating door has been the various injuries/illnesses to strike the Spartans. It began with Gary Harris missing three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland, North Florida) in a four-game stretch with an ankle injury and also coming off the bench at Texas. Matt Costello started six of the first eight games of the season, but then missed four straight with mononucleosis before returning for conference play. 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. The Spartans have been hit especially hard recently as Payne is currently dealing with a right foot sprain which forced him to miss the the last four contests, while Dawson suffered a broken bone in his right hand on Jan. 23 and is out of action 4-5 weeks.

Kaminski For Three
Redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski is quickly establishing himself as one of the top shooters in the conference. On the season, he is shooting .548 (17-31) from 3-point range. He's been even more prolific in conference play, connecting on 13-of-23 attempts (.565) from behind the arc, ranking second in the conference. He made a career-high five 3-pointers in seven attempts against Minnesota. Of the 14 field goals he's made in conference, 13 have been 3-pointers, and he was fouled for a three-point play on his lone 2-point field goal.

Breslin Advantage
Michigan State is 336-47 (.877) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 174-35 (.833) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 262-32 (.891) at Breslin, including a 133-22 (.858) conference record. MSU has won 43 of the last 46 games at Breslin.

Costello With The Rejection
Since returning from missing four games with mono, Matt Costello is proving his worth in the Spartan lineup, especially on the defensive end. In seven conference games, he has totaled 14 blocks (2.0 bpg), ranking tied for fifth in the Big Ten. Overall, he ranks eighth in the conference at 1.7 bpg (25). As his conditioning improves, however, he's also showing some offense, averaging 5.8 points in the last four games, including scoring eight at Illinois.

Different Ways To Win
With its 54-40 win at Northwestern, Michigan State proved it could win a low-scoring contest with its defense. But MSU has also shown it can win with a potent offense. In fact, MSU has now won games when scoring in the 50's (1), 60's (2), 70's (7), 80's (3), 90's (4), and 100's (1). Wisconsin and Michigan State are the only teams to accomplish this feat in the Big Ten, and two of just seven schools to do it nationally, joining Connecticut, Florida State, Marquette, Norfolk State and Tennessee Tech.

Taking Care Of The Ball
Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzo era. MSU is currently averaging 11.4 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. The Spartans are 12-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent. MSU ranks third in the Big Ten in turnover margin (+2.5), out-scoring opponents by +3.9 points per game (16.7-12.8) in points off turnovers.

Izzo Moves Up Big Ten Coaching List
With MSU's 78-62 win at Illinois, Tom Izzo passed Illinois' Lou Henson for sole possesion of fourth place on the Big Ten career victories list with 215 wins. Izzo currently stands at 216 career Big Ten wins. In MSU's 73-56 win at Indiana, Izzo moved past IU's Branch McCracken for fifth place on the career Big Ten victories list with 211. Indiana's Bob Knight is the all-time leader with 353 Big Ten wins. Ward Lambert ranks third with 228 wins, while Gene Keady is second at 265.

Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 17.8 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking third in the nation. With 338 assists on 545 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 62.0 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) (NCAA stats through Jan. 19). Keith Appling is third in the conference in assists (4.6 apg) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3). Four Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (3.9 apg), Gary Harris (2.8 apg), and Travis Trice (2.2 apg) join Appling.

Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .478. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in eight 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.

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 11 games since the loss, MSU is holding its opponents to 60.6 points and a .369 field-goal percentage, including .305 from 3-point range. In a related stat regarding MSU's return to basics, the Spartans own a +7.3 rebounding margin over the last 11 games. During this stretch, MSU has played six games away from home, including at Texas, Indiana and Illinois, and owns a home win over No. 3 Ohio State.

Three 15-Point Scorers
With Gary Harris (18.3 ppg), Adreian Payne (16.2 ppg) and Keith Appling (15.6 ppg), Michigan State is one of just six schools in the nation with three 15-point scorers. Other schools include Iowa State, VMI, Delaware, Temple, and Cal State-Northridge.

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 574-455 (.558) in league play, including 216-95 (.695) under Tom Izzo, who ranks fourth in league history with 216 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 216-95, 20.5 games better than second-place Wisconsin (195-115).

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.

Comeback Kids
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring margin (+16.0), but that doesn't mean it isn't capable of a comeback. The Spartans have overcome deficits of 10 or more points three times, and deficits of seven or more points six times. MSU is a perfect 6-0 when trailing at the half.

Double-Double Trouble
Four different Spartans have collected a total of 12 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. Denzel Valentine (vs. New Orleans 10 pts., 13 reb.; vs. Illinois 15 pts., 11 reb.) has two and Gary Harris (vs. McNeese State 20 pts., 10 reb.) has one. Dawson ranks tied for third in the Big Ten, while Payne is tied for fifth.

Guard Rebounds
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 8.7 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten, from the wing. Denzel Valentine (6.0 rpg) ranks third on the team, Gary Harris (4.5 rpg) ranks fourth and Keith Appling ranks fifth (3.6 rpg). Either Dawson or Valentine has led the Spartans in rebounding in 16 of 19 games.

20-Point Spartans
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, 24 vs. Minnesota, 22 vs. Kentucky, 21 vs. Oakland, 20 vs. Ohio State) leads the way with seven 20-point efforts, while Gary Harris (26 vs. Indiana, 24 vs. Indiana, 23 vs. Illinois, 21 vs. Oklahoma, 20 vs. McNeese State, 20 vs. Kentucky) has six and Adreian Payne (33 vs. Texas, 29 vs. Virginia Tech, 26 vs. Columbia, 20 vs. Oakland) has 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 19 games, MSU is averaging 79.9 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten, including 16.7 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.

Outside Shooting
Michigan State is shooting .385 from 3-point range (146-of-379), leading the Big Ten. Five Spartans (Gary Harris-38, Keith Appling-29, Travis Trice-23, Adreian Payne-18, Kenny Kaminski-17) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Payne ranks third in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.439), while Appling ranks fifth (.426) and Trice ranks sixth (.418). 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 (7.7). 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.

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-108 attempts, .722; Payne-61 attempts, .803; Harris-80 attempts, .838) are each shooting 72 percent or better from the foul line. In fact, the three are shooting a combined .779 (194-249) 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 his 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 fourth in rebounding. He's captured Big Ten Player of the Week honors twice this season (Nov. 18 and Dec. 23). He's missed the last four games while resting a sprained foot.

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 2.3 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. 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). He followed with a game-high 24 points vs. Minnesota, including eight points (8-8 FT) in overtime.

Spartan Spurtability
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. MSU used a 15-0 run vs. Minnesota to turn a 10-point deficit into a five point advantage with a 15-0 run during a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. At Illinois, MSU took control of the game with an 11-3 run over the final 4:02 of the first half. A 21-6 spurt over seven-and-a-half minutes late in the second half against Indiana turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

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 (163), Kentucky (155), Duke (154), and Connecticut (145).

Super Subs
Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine are not normally in the starting lineup when MSU has its full complement of players, but in the eyes of Coach Izzo, they might as well be. Izzo has regularly referred to the duo as "super subs." Valentine ranks fifth on the team in scoring (7.6 ppg) and minutes (28.0 mpg), while Trice ranks sixth in scoring (7.1 ppg) and minutes (20.3 mpg). Valentine (3.9 apg) is second in assist average, while Trice (2.2 apg) is fourth.

MSU's Super Sophomore
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 18.3 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in six games. He missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland and North Florida) while resting an injured ankle, but is averaging 18.9 points in nine games since his return.

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 8.7 rebounds, ranking second in the Big Ten and leading the team in 12 of 18 games in which he's played, and 10.2 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 (.604). Dawson is out 4-5 weeks after breaking a bone in his right hand on Jan. 23.

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. With Appling and Harris, MSU features the only team in the nation with two backcourt players on the midseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

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 490 of 636 opponents (.770), posting a 390-100 (.796) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +5.6 rebounding margin, ranking third in the Big Ten, and has out-rebounded 13 of 19 opponents.

Returning Productivity
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 guard Keith Appling and sophomore guard Gary Harris are two of 23 players named to the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List. The list was selected by the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Michigan State is one of six schools 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.

MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are currently ranked No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press Top 25. Six Spartan opponents are also ranked in at least one of the polls, including Wisconsin (9 AP/8 USA Today), Iowa (10/10), Kentucky (14/14), Ohio State (17/15), Michigan (21/t-25), and Oklahoma (25/t-25).

Wooden And Naismith Award Watch Lists
Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have each earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list. The Spartans are one of four schools to have two players on the list. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for 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. Players not on the midseason list are still eligible to appear on the ballot. 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. Gary 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 1,415 career points, he ranks 20th in MSU career scoring, 53 points behind Charlie Bell (1,468 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 10 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 7.1 points and 6.6 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. Five conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 3 Michigan State, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Iowa, No. 15 Ohio State, and No. T-25 Michigan. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.

Conference Favorites
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.

Spartan Freshmen
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
Coach Izzo

In his 19th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 457-179 (.719), and 216-95 (.695) 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 .695 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 (.703), 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 (.727), Izzo (.719), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 215 conference victories, Izzo ranks fourth 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.