March 14, 2012
The Opening Tip
Michigan State enters the 2012 NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed in the West. The Spartans are seeded No. 1 for the fifth time in school history and the fourth time under Tom Izzo. MSU earned the automatic bid to the tournament with a 68-64 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament title game. MSU's opponent will be No. 16 LIU Brooklyn, champions of the Northeast Conference.
The Starting Five (And A Sixth Man)
1. MSU's NCAA Streak
Michigan State is making its 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. It is the longest current streak among Big Ten schools and third longest in the nation. Only Kansas (23) and Duke (17) have longer current streaks. It is also the second-longest streak in Big Ten history. Indiana appeared in 18 consecutive tournaments between 1986 and 2003.
2. MSU As A No. 1 Seed
Michigan State is a No. 1 seed for the fifth time in school history (1990, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2012) and the fourth time under Tom Izzo. The Spartans lost to Georgia Tech in overtime (81-80) in the Sweet 16 in 1990, but have advanced to the Final Four every time they've been a No. 1 seed under Coach Izzo.
3. MSU In The NCAA Tournament
Michigan State is making its 26th appearance in the NCAA Tournament with a record of 52-24 in its previous 25 tournaments. MSU has made eight trips to the Final Four (1957, 1979, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010) and captured the NCAA Championship in 1979 and 2000.
4. At His Best When It Counts
Tom Izzo ranks sixth among active coaches for the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage at .729 (35-13). Duke's Mike Krzyzewski ranks first at .775 (79-23), followed by North Carolina's Roy Williams at .753 (58-19), Florida's Billy Donovan (.735, 25-9), Butler's Brad Stevens (.733, 11-4) and UConn's Jim Calhoun (.731, 49-18). Of those six, Izzo and Krzyzewski are the only coaches to appear in the last 15 NCAA Tournaments.
5. Izzo's NCAA Streak
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is making his 15th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It's the third longest active streak in the nation, trailing only Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Barnes, whom each are making their 17th straight trip this season. Izzo's streak is the nation's second-longest among coaches at just one school, trailing only Krzyzewski. It equals Bob Knight's 15-straight appearances (1986-2000) as the longest streak in Big Ten history.
6. MSU In Opening Games
In its 25 NCAA Tournaments, Michigan State has a record of 19-6 in its first game of the tournament. Since the field expanded in 1985, the Spartans are 15-6 in the round of 64. Tom Izzo is 10-4 in the round of 64. (Note: The round of 64 which used to be the first round is now the second round.)
MSU vs. LIU Brooklyn Notes
About LIU Brooklyn
The Blackbirds won their second-straight Northeast Conference Tournament title with a 90-73 victory over Robert Morris. LIU Brooklyn also won the NEC regular-season championship for the second-consecutive season with a 16-2 conference record.
LIU Brooklyn vs. The Field of 68
The Blackbirds went 1-2 against teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. LIU Brooklyn defeated Vermont, champions of the America East, 80-75, on Nov. 20. The Blackbirds fell at Iona, who earned an at-large berth out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 100-84, on Nov. 28, and also lost at Mid-Eastern Athletic Champion Norfolk State, 73-62, on Dec. 14.
The Spartans and Blackbirds both played Central Connecticut and Penn State during the 2011-12 season. MSU went 2-0 against those teams, while LIU Brooklyn went 1-1. The Blackbirds fell at Penn State on Nov. 16, 77-68, but topped Central Connecticut at home on Feb. 4, 95-80. Michigan State defeated Central Connecticut on Dec. 7 (89-69) and Penn State on Feb. 8 (77-57).
LIU Brooklyn leads the all-time series against Michigan State, 2-1, although the two teams haven't met since the 1940-41 season. The Spartans lost the first matchup in series history at Long Island, 34-25, on Jan. 26, 1940. MSU answered with a 31-26 victory the following year in Long Island on Jan. 4, 1941, but the Spartans fell later in the season, 24-23, on Feb. 19, 1941, in East Lansing.
Jim Ferry (Keene State '90) is in his 10th season at LIU Brooklyn with a record of 150-148. For his career, Ferry is 254-167, including an 82-11 record in three seasons at Division II Adelphi and a 22-8 mark in one season at Division III Plymouth State. This marks the second time Ferry has led the Blackbirds to the NCAA Tournament and it marks the fifth time his team has earned an NCAA Tournament bid (three appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament with Adelphi). He was named NEC Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2011 and the Division II National Coach of the Year by Basketball Times in 2001.
This is LIU Brooklyn's second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth in school history (1981, 1984, 1997, 2011, 2012) ... The Blackbirds are 0-4 in their previous four appearances in the NCAA Tournament ... As a No. 15 seed, LIU Brooklyn fell to second-seeded North Carolina in last year's NCAA Tournament, 102-87 ... Junior forward Julian Boyd was named the NEC Player of the Year after averaging 17.4 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game ... Boyd ranks 26th in the country in field-goal percentage (.557) and 22nd in double-doubles (14) ... Junior forward Jamal Olasewere was also a first-team All-NEC selection (16.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and ranks 16th in the nation field-goal percentage (.577) ... Sophomore guard Jason Brickman was a second-team All-NEC pick after leading the conference and ranking fifth in the nation with 7.3 assists per game while pouring in 9.7 ppg ... Brinkman's 242 assists this season are a LIU Brooklyn single-season record ... The Blackbirds feature the nation's third-highest scoring offense, averaging 81.9 ppg.
NCAA Tournament Notes
MSU's NCAA History In Ohio
While Michigan State has never played an NCAA Tournament game in Columbus, the Spartans are 6-3 in tournament games within Ohio, including 2-0 in Cleveland and 4-3 in Dayton. In 1978, MSU split a pair of games in the Mideast Regional in Dayton. In 1986, the Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 by defeating Washington and Georgetown in the first and second rounds in Dayton. 1992 brought about another trip to Dayton, with MSU beating SW Missouri State in the first round before falling to Cincinnati in the second round. MSU's road to the 2000 NCAA title began with a pair of wins over Valparaiso and Utah in Cleveland. In the Spartans' most recent tournament game in the Buckeye state, MSU fell to George Mason in Dayton in 2006.
Spartan Opponents In NCAA Tournament
Ten Michigan State opponents are in the field of 68 for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, including Big Ten foes Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin, and non-conference opponents Duke, Florida State, Gonzaga, Lehigh, and North Carolina. The Spartans are a combined 12-5 against the 10 teams, playing 17 of their 34 games against tournament teams. What's more impressive is that seven of those 10 opponents earned a Top 4 seed, as MSU played a combined 13 games against the Top 4 seeds, posting an 8-5 record.
Big Ten Conference In The NCAA Tournament
The Big Ten Conference has six of its 12 schools in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Joining the Spartans are No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 4 Michigan, No. 4 Indiana, and No. 10 Purdue. The Big Ten leads all conferences with five Top 4 seeds, followed by the Big East (4), ACC (3), Big 12 (3) and SEC (1).
Michigan State ranks seventh among all schools in NCAA Tournament winning percentage for teams with at least 20 tournament games. MSU's .684 winning percentage (52-24) trails only Duke (.756, 95-31), UCLA (.731, 95-35), North Carolina (.724, 105-40), Florida (.707, 29-12), Kentucky (.695, 105-46), and Kansas (.693, 88-39). MSU's 52 tournament wins rank ninth in NCAA history and second among Big Ten schools, behind Indiana (60).
MSU In The Second Round
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Michigan State has advanced to the round of 32 (new third round) 15 times. MSU has an 11-4 record in round of 32 games since 1985, including winning nine of its last 10.
Quick Turnaround Success
Michigan State's deep NCAA Tournament runs can be attributed to its success with quick turnarounds. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are a remarkable 16-3 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend. What's even more impressive is that all three losses have all come to No. 1 seeds.
Two Titles Not Too Shabby
Michigan State is one of just 14 schools to have won two or more NCAA Championships. Cincinnati, Florida, Louisville, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and San Francisco join MSU with two titles. Only UCLA (11), Kentucky (7), Indiana (5), North Carolina (5), Duke (4), Connecticut (3) and Kansas (3) have won more titles.
MSU Big Ten Tournament Notes
* Michigan State captured its third Big Ten Tournament title; its first since 2000.
* Draymond Green was named Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 15.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, recording two double-doubles.
* Brandon Wood was named to the All-Tournament Team, averaging 13.3 points, including scoring a game-high 21 points in the championship game vs. Ohio State, the most he's ever scored as a Spartan.
* Draymond Green moved into second place in Big Ten Tournament history with 89 rebounds, trailing only Iowa's Reggie Evans.
* MSU shot .523 from the field, including .479 from 3-point range, while holding teams to .394 shooting.
* MSU's .523 field-goal percentage was the third-best single-tournament percentage by any team in tournament history, while its .479 3-point field-goal percentage was fourth-best ever.
* Keith Appling recorded 16 assists and three turnovers (5.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio).
* Michigan State's two centers, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, each averaged 9.3 points, as Payne scored a career-high 16 points vs. Iowa.
* Michigan State averaged just 10.0 turnovers.
* Michigan State averaged 6.0 blocks, as the 18 total blocks were fourth-best ever by any school in tournament history.
* Adreian Payne blocked four shots vs. OSU, equalling a championship game record.
* Austin Thornton (.700, 7-10), Travis Trice (.667, 4-6) and Brandon Wood (.538, 7-13) each shot better than 50 percent from 3-point range. Thornton's .700 percent tied the Big Ten single tournament record (minimum eight attempts).
MSU Basketball Notes
Big Ten Champs
Michigan State captured a share of its 13th regular-season Big Ten Championship, and the seventh under head coach Tom Izzo. Since MSU entered the league in 1951, only Indiana (17) and Ohio State (14) have won more titles. Tom Izzo is one of just five coaches in history with seven or more Big Ten titles. Just Indiana's Bob Knight (11), Purdue's Ward Lambert (11), Ohio State's Fred Taylor (9) and Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (8) have won more.
Draymond Green was named First-Team Sporting News All-America on Tuesday, March 6. He is the first Spartan to be honored by the magazine since Jason Richardson (2nd Team) in 2001, and just the 10th in program history. On Monday, March 12, Green was named USBWA First-Team All-American, becoming the eighth Spartan honored by the basketball writers. Green is the first Spartan to earn All-America honors of any type since Drew Neitzel was a second-team honoree by CBSSportsline.com and ESPN's Dick Vitale in 2007.
Tom Izzo has built the Michigan State program on rebounding and defense, two elements at which the Spartans are excelling this season. MSU is holding teams to a .378 field-goal percentage, the lowest total of the Tom Izzo era. The previous low was .384 in 2006-07. MSU currently ranks second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and fourth in rebounding margin (+8.0), as the only team in the nation to rank in the Top 5 in both categories (Through March 11).
Over the last four years, the Spartans have posted a 105-38 record, won three Big Ten titles, a Big Ten Tournament crown, appeared in four NCAA Tournaments and advanced to two Final Fours. The 105 wins equal the 2011 class as the fourth-winningest class in MSU history, trailing the 2010 class (109) by four.
MSU's Ohio Connection
Michigan State's roster features two players from the Buckeye State: sophomore Adreian Payne and freshman Travis Trice. 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. Next season, they'll be joined by Kenny Kaminski who earned second-team all-state honors as a prep junior last year at Medina. 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).
MSU In March
Michigan State is 66-26 (.717) in March since the 1998-99 season. For his career, Tom Izzo is 73-33 (.689) in March. Over the last three-plus years, MSU is 20-6 in what Coach Izzo calls his favorite month of the year.
Climbing The Rebounding Charts
With 1,055 career rebounds, Draymond Green ranks second in MSU history, 37 behind MSU's career leader Greg Kelser (1,092). With 10 rebounds against Nebraska, he became just the fourth player in MSU history with 1,000 career boards, and the third player with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, joining Greg Kelser and Johnny Green. At his current 10.4 average, Green would need to play in four more games to become MSU's career rebounding leader. This season, Green leads the Big Ten and ranks 14th in the nation in rebounding (through March 11). He also ranks fifth in the nation with 19 double-doubles.
Strong Spartan Defense
MSU's defensive effort has been impressive this season. The Spartans are allowing just 59.1 points (ranking 16th in the nation through March 11) on .378 shooting (2nd in nation), including .292 from 3-point range (9th in nation). The Spartans rank third in the Big Ten in scoring defense, first in field-goal percentage defense and second in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. Only two teams have shot 50 percent or better from the field, while 23 have shot under 41 percent, including five below 30 percent.
Green, Izzo Take Top Big Ten Honors
Michigan State swept the top two individual awards when the All-Big Ten teams were announced on Monday, March 5. Draymond Green was named Player of the Year by the league's coaches and media, becoming the seventh Spartan to earn the honor and the first since Kalin Lucas in 2009. Tom Izzo was named Coach of the Year by both the media and coaches, earning the honor for the third time in his career (1998, 2009). Green was a unanimous All-Big Ten First-Team honoree and was voted to the All-Defensive Team. Keith Appling earned Third-Team All-Big Ten honors, while Branden Dawson was named to the All-Freshman Team and was an honorable mention all-conference selection by the media. Austin Thornton was MSU's Sportsmanship Honoree. Green and Izzo were also selected the District V Player and Coach of the Year, respectively, by the United States Basketball Writers Association. District V is made up of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Draymond In Position For Individual Honors
With an outstanding senior season, Draymond Green has put himself in position to earn a nice collection of individual accolades. He is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. He's on the John R. Wooden Award Final Ballot, the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List, presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and the Naismith Award AT&T Midseason 30 Watch List. Fans can vote for Green to win the Senior CLASS Award at www.seniorclassaward.com. To learn more about Draymond Green visit msuspartans.com/draymondgreen23.
Versus Ranked Opponents
Michigan State is 8-5 against ranked opponents this season, including road wins over #23 Gonzaga, #18 Wisconsin, and #3 Ohio State, home wins over #13 Indiana, #23 Michigan and #15 Wisconsin, and neutral court wins over #14 Wisconsin and #7 Ohio State. In MSU's eight wins over ranked opponents, the Spartan defense has been outstanding, holding opponents to 58.1 points on .367 shooting. Offensively, Draymond Green (16.9 ppg) and Keith Appling (13.8 ppg) pace the Spartans in wins over ranked opponents. The eight wins over ranked opponents are the most in the nation.
Draymond From Distance
Draymond Green leads the Spartans with 47 made 3-pointers and is tied for the team lead with 119 3-point attempts. In conference action, he connected on 32-of-69 attempts from behind the arc, ranking fifth in the Big Ten with a .464 percentage.
A Well-Rounded Team
MSU's defense has rightfully garnered a lot of attention, as has its rebounding prowess. But the Spartans have also proven to be a talented offensive squad. In conference games, the Spartans ranked second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.474), fourth in scoring offense (68.1 ppg), and fifth in 3-point field-goal percentage (.362).
The Nation's Most Versatile Player
Draymond Green leads the nation with six games of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists this year. No other player in the nation has had more than three (through March 6). Since 1996-97, Evan Turner is the only player from a power six conference to have more such games in a single season, recording seven in 2009-10. Tim Duncan (1996-97) is the only other player with as many as five in one season.
Draymond In Exclusive Company
Currently averaging 16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 3.6 apg, Draymond Green is looking to become the first player from a power six conference to average 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists in a season since Tim Duncan accomplished the feat in 1996-97. Duncan averaged 20.8 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a senior at Wake Forest.
Green's Weekly Honors
Draymond Green is a four-time winner of the Big Ten Player of the Week honors (Dec. 12, Jan. 30, Feb. 13, Feb. 20). During one stretch of the conference season, he won the award three out of four weeks. On Feb. 21, Green's performance was also recognized by the USBWA with the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award. Earlier this season, he was also named National Player of the Week by ESPN.com's Andy Katz and ESPN's Dick Vitale following his 34-point effort in a win at Gonzaga. He earned the award on Feb. 20 after averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in Spartan wins over Wisconsin and at Purdue. He had as many 20-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist games that week (2) as any other player in the nation had in the season at the time.
Strength of Schedule
Michigan State finished the season with the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country. The Spartans played 17 of 34 games vs. the RPI Top 50 and 22 of 34 vs. the RPI Top 100. MSU leads the nation with 12 wins over the RPI Top 50 and 10 wins over the RPI Top 25.
How Valuable Is Draymond?
Draymond Green has led MSU in rebounding in 28 of 34 games, including 16 of 18 Big Ten contests. He's led MSU in scoring in 19 games, and paced the Spartans in assists in 12 contests. In six of the last 14 games, he's led in scoring, rebounding and assists. In the 12 games in which he's recorded at least five assists and five rebounds, the Spartans are a perfect 12-0. He's the only player in the Big Ten to rank in the top 10 in scoring (6th), rebounding (1st) and assists (8th). In fact, no other player in the Big Ten ranks in the Top 15 in all three categories.
Dawson Out Of Action
Branden Dawson is out for the remainder of the season with an ACL tear in his left knee, having suffered the injury in the regular-season finale vs. Ohio State. In the 11 games leading up to the Ohio State contest, Dawson was averaging 9.5 ppg, scoring in double figures in six games, shooting .589 (43-of-73) from the field, and grabbing 5.3 boards per contest. He posted two double-doubles in the stretch at Illinois (12 pts., 13 reb.) and at Purdue (15 pts., 11 reb.) He's scored in double-figures 12 times this season, and ranks third on the team in scoring at 8.4 ppg and second in rebounding at 4.5 rpg. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Jan. 30. In conference games, he ranked third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.584) and tied for sixth in offensive rebounds (2.1 orpg).
Finding The Long Distance Connection
Through the first six games of the season, MSU was shooting just .269 from 3-point range (32-119). In the last 28 games, however, the Spartans have been on target, connecting on .398 of their shots (163-410) from behind the arc. In league games, MSU ranked fifth in the conference at .362.
Harris Named McDonald's All-American
Michigan State men's basketball signee Gary Harris was named a McDonald's All-American on Thursday, Feb. 9. The prep senior at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., is the 11th recruit under MSU head coach Tom Izzo to earn McDonald's All-America honors. Harris will suit up for the East squad in the game at Chicago's United Center on March 28, becoming the 15th McDonald's All-American to play for Michigan State dating back to 1977. Current Spartans Keith Appling (2010) and Branden Dawson (2011) were also McDonald's All-Americans.
Green Attacks The Glass
Draymond Green leads the Big Ten at 10.4 rebounds per game, ranking 14th in the nation (through March 11), including a conference-best 10.6 rebounds per game in league contests. His 10.4 overall average is the best for a Spartan since Antonio Smith averaged 10.6 rpg as a sophomore in 1996-97. Goran Suton led the Big Ten in rebounding in 2009, and prior to that, the last Spartan to pace the conference was Smith in 1997. Green has grabbed double-figure rebounds in 22 games, including 14 of the last 19 and 17 of the last 24. He has led MSU in rebounding in 28 of 34 games this season.
Four different Spartans have recorded a double-double this season. Draymond Green leads the way with 19 double-doubles, pacing the Big Ten and ranking fifth in the nation (through March 11). Green has posted a double-double in 15 of the last 23 games. Branden Dawson has posted three double-doubles, and Adreian Payne and Brandon Wood have each recorded one double-double. Green has tallied 37 career double-doubles, ranking tied for second most by a Spartan since 1975-76, trailing only Greg Kelser (48). He (16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg) is looking to become the first Spartan to average a double-double since Mike Peplowski in 1993 (14.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg).
With a 58-48 win at Ohio State, Michigan State recorded its 12th 20-win season in the last 15 years, all under head coach Tom Izzo. Of the 20 20-win seasons in Spartan history, Izzo has been involved in 17 of them, 12 as a head coach and five as an assistant.
It's All About Boardwork
After leading the nation in rebounding margin in both 2009 (+9.3) and 2010 (+8.6), Michigan State ranked 48th in the nation last season at +4.0. The Spartans have returned to their dominant ways in 2011-12, out-rebounding 26 of 34 opponents by a +8.0 margin, including eight by 15 or more, leading the Big Ten and ranking fourth in the nation (through March 11). The Spartans have led the nation in rebounding margin in four of the last 12 seasons, ranking in the top 10 seven times and the top 25 on 10 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in 11 of the last 14 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 443 of 578 opponents (.766), posting a 350-93 (.790) mark in those games.
Defending The Three
Last season, Michigan State ranked eighth in the Big Ten, allowing teams to shoot .364 from 3-point range. This year, the Spartans rank second in the conference and 9th in the nation (through March 11), allowing opponents to shoot just .292 from behind the arc, while ranking first in conference games (.275). MSU has held 12 opponents to a .250 or lower shooting percentage from behind the arc. That happened just four times all of last season. Twenty opponents have shot .300 or lower, including 13 of the last 20.
Big Ten Success
Michigan State has won 13 Big Ten Championships, including three of the last four, 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 554-450 (.552) in league play, including 196-90 (.685) under Tom Izzo, who ranks sixth in league history with 196 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 196-90, 16 games better than second-place Wisconsin (180-106).
MSU's Mr. Everything
Coach Izzo has explained that he hasn't had a player asked to do as much for a team as Draymond Green, and the numbers prove it. In addition to being the unquestioned leader of the squad, Green leads the team in scoring (16.1 ppg), rebounding (10.4 rpg), minutes (33.0 mpg), steals (50), and 3-point field goals (47), while ranking second in assists (3.6 apg) and blocks (34). He leads the Big Ten in rebounding and defensive rebounds (8.2 drpg), while ranking fifth in steals, sixth in scoring, eighth in offensive rebounds (2.1 orpg), eighth in assists, 10th in blocks, and 14th in assist/turnover ratio.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo recorded his 400th win at MSU with the Spartans' 68-52 win over Minnesota. The school's all-time winningest coach with 410 wins, he is just the fourth coach to win 400 games at a Big Ten institution, joining Bob Knight (661 wins), Gene Keady (512) and Lou Henson (423).
The Perfect Spartan
While Draymond Green's statistical contributions are significant and impressive, his best quality is his leadership. Green is in his third year as a captain, becoming just the fifth three-time captain in school history. Coach Tom Izzo recently called Green "the perfect Spartan," saying that he's becoming "the face of Michigan State athletics" like Mateen Cleaves or Kirk Cousins. Said Izzo, "I have something that you don't get very often ... I've got a guy who is my voice. And he's kind of my personality, which makes it even better for me."
Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State ranks 26th in the nation and leads the Big Ten in assists with 15.3 per game (NCAA ranking through March 11). The Spartans have recorded an assist on 59.1 percent of their baskets. Over the last 27 games, the Spartans are averaging 15.9 assists.
Appling Locks Them Up
Besides everything Keith Appling provides on the offensive end of the floor, leading the team in assists and ranking second in scoring, he is perhaps even more impressive on the defensive end where he is emerging as one of the premier defenders in the league. A two-time recipient of MSU's Best Defensive Player Award, Appling is terrific at running through screens and not allowing his man an open look. Consider some of his better efforts. UMKC's Reggie Chaimberlain entered the game averaging 19.0 points, but was limited to 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting. IU's Jordan Hulls was held to 4 points on 2-of-10 shooting, after entering the contest averaging 12.1 points. In the second game vs. Wisconsin, Appling held pre-season All-American Jordan Taylor to 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting. He limited Nebraska's Bo Spencer to two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes before Spencer was injured on the final play of the first half.
Spartans Shooting Better
Michigan State got off to a slow start in terms of field-goal percentage this season, shooting .306 from the field against North Carolina outdoors on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Over the first six games of the season, MSU shot .423 from the field and .238 from 3-point range. In the last 28 games, however, MSU has shown dramatic improvement, hitting .489 from the field and .398 from 3-point range. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in 14 of the last 27 games, including four contests at 60 percent or better. In Big Ten games, MSU ranked second in the conference at .473.
Consistent Starting Lineup
Michigan State used the same starting lineup (Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Draymond Green, Adreian Payne, Brandon Wood) for 20 of its first 21 games. Appling is the only Spartan to start all 34 games, while Green and Payne have started 33. Austin Thornton has started the last 12.
Becoming A Point Guard
Keith Appling has been asked to make the transition from the wing to point guard for Michigan State this season. As the season progresses, Appling seems more at home in his new position. While he did not have an assist in the first two games of the season, he's averaging 4.2 assists in his last 32 games with a 1.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Dec. 5 and then again on Jan. 2. He's averaging 4.4 assists in the last 27 games, including a career-best 9 vs. Iowa. He owns a 1.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last 27 contests. In conference games, he ranked fifth in the Big Ten with 4.1 assists per game and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5).
Michigan State is outscoring opponents, 409-315, in second-chance points for the season. That's an average of +2.7 points per game (12.0-9.3). The Spartans are averaging 11.7 offensive boards per game, ranking third in the Big Ten. MSU has 399 offensive rebounds on the year compared to 678 defensive rebounds for its opponents, good for an offensive rebound percentage of .370, ranking first in the conference. The Spartans have grabbed 20 or more offensive boards four times this season.
What A Difference A Year Makes
Derrick Nix is averaging 7.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 19.0 minutes per contest. That's a contrast to last season when Nix averaged just 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds for the season. Nix has even elevated his play recently, averaging 8.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in the last 27 games. In the first 73 games of his career, Nix scored in double figures just three times; he's done it 11 times in the last 27 contests, scoring eight or more points in 18 of the last 27 games. He's been MSU's first sub in 30 of the 33 games in which he's come off the bench.
Six of the 11 players in the Spartan playing group are seeing their first action in a Michigan State uniform (Russell Byrd, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice, Brandon Wood). The six are averaging 33.6 percent of the scoring and 38.3 percent of the minutes. There are just two players on the 2011-12 roster (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season for MSU.
Eight different Spartans have led Michigan State in scoring this season. Draymond Green (19 times), Keith Appling (six times), Branden Dawson (four times), Brandon Wood (three times), Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, Austin Thornton and Travis Trice also have each paced MSU.
The Turnover Story
MSU is committing 13.0 turnovers per game, while forcing 12.9 by its opponents. The Spartans are averaging 15.1 points per game off opponent turnovers, compared to 12.1 points by opponents off MSU turnovers. The Spartans are 12-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent, but 11-7 when they have more (4-0 when equal).
In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of 34.1-22.0, out-scoring 30 of its 34 opponents. The Spartans even out-scored North Carolina in the paint, 34-32, despite the Tar Heels having what some consider to be the premier frontline in the country.
Getting To The Foul Line
Over the first five games of the season, Michigan State was shooting just .629 from the foul line. That has improved recently, as the Spartans are shooting .712 over the last 29 games. For the season, MSU is shooting .698 from the foul line, averaging 21.2 attempts per game.
The 1,000-Point Club
With a second-half tip-in vs. Florida State, Draymond Green became the 42nd player in MSU history to reach the 1,000 point mark for his career. With 1,464 points, he ranks 18th in MSU history, needing five to move past Charlie Bell (1,468 points) and 71 to move past Drew Neitzel (1,534 points).
Big Ten Defense
Michigan State's defense has been great all season, but the effort in Big Ten play was nothing short of phenomenal. The Spartans led the conference in field-goal percentage defense (.379), .027 better than second place Wisconsin, while also pacing the Big Ten in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.275). Despite their up-tempo style, the Spartans ranked second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 58.2 points per game.
Toughest Start Ever
Michigan State opened the season with the toughest start in the nation with back-to-back neutral-site contests vs. No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke. MSU is the first team to open the season against North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games since Wake Forest and North Carolina State did it in November 1976. Michigan State also has never opened a season with two games against ranked opponents.
In The Rankings
Seven different Spartan opponents are ranked in at least one of the two polls, including North Carolina (4 AP/5 USA Today), Ohio State (7/7), Duke (8/8), Florida State (10/12), Michigan (13/14), Wisconsin (14/13) and Indiana (16/17). MSU is ranked No. 5 by the AP and No. 4 by ESPN/USA Today.
Keith Appling and Draymond Green both benefited from their experiences with USA Basketball over the summer. Green was a member of the World University Games team, averaging 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds, ranking second on the team in boards, and serving as a distributor from the forward position. Appling played with the FIBA U19 World Championship team, averaging 4.1 points and 10.3 minutes per contest, gaining some valuable experience at the point.
Same Name, Different Spellings
Among MSU's newcomers, three have the same first name, but it's spelled three different ways. Branden Dawson, Brandan Kearney and Brandon Wood each have a different second-to-last lettter in the first name. Pay close attention to eliminate typos.
MSU vs. Memphis Notes
Memphis clinched its fifth outright Conference USA regular-season title this season with a 13-3 league record. The Tigers swept through the Conference USA Tournament, winning their three games by an average of 27.7 points, including a 83-57 victory over Marshall in the championship game. It marked the the sixth Conference USA Tournament title in the last seven years for Memphis.
Memphis vs. The Field of 68
The Tigers went 3-6 against teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Memphis defeated Atlantic Sun Champion Belmont in the season opener on Nov. 15, 97-81, and Xavier on Feb. 4, 72-68. Memphis split the season series with Southern Mississippi, who earned an at-large bid out of Conference USA. In non-conference action, the Tigers lost to Michigan (73-61), Murray State (76-72), Louisville (95-87) and twice to Georgetown (91-88 in OT; 70-59).
The Spartans and Tigers both played Michigan this season. MSU split the season series against the Wolverines, while Memphis lost, 73-61, in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21.
Memphis has won both meetings against MSU. In the last matchup between the two schools, which came in the 2008 NCAA South Regional semifinal in Houston, Texas, the top-seeded Tigers defeated the fifth-seeded Spartans, 92-74. In the first meeting, Memphis topped MSU, 73-57, on Dec. 30, 1967, at the Sugar Bowl Tournament in New Orleans.
Josh Pastner (Arizona, 1998) is 75-28 (.728) in his third season as head coach at Memphis, which is the most victories by a Tiger head coach in his first three seasons. Pastner spent six seasons (2002-08) as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Arizona, and was an assistant coach at Memphis for one season (2008-09) before being named head coach. Pastner was a member of Arizona's 1997 National Championship team and played four seasons for the Wildcats (1996-2000). This marks Pastner's second appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach; as a No. 12 seed, the Tigers lost to fifth-seeded Arizona, 77-75, in the second round last year.
Memphis is making its 24th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, including eight out of the last 10 seasons ... The Tigers are 32-23 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including three Final Four appearances (1973, 1985, 2008), six Elite Eights and 11 Sweet Sixteens ... Sophomore guard Will Barton, the Conference USA Player of the Year, averages 18.1 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game ... Barton was also a first-team All-Conference USA pick and was named to the USBWA All-District 4 Team ... For the second straight season, sophomore guard Joe Jackson was named MVP of the Conference USA Tournament, becoming the first player in C-USA history to accomplish the feat . . . The Tigers rank first in C-USA in scoring offense, averaging 75.3 ppg . . . Memphis is fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage (.494), eighth in blocked shots (5.7 bpg) and 10th in field-goal percentage defense (.384).
MSU vs. Saint Louis Notes
About Saint Louis
Saint Louis earned an at-large bid out of the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 25-7 overall record and a 12-4 conference mark. The Billikens finished second in the Atlantic 10 regular-season standings, one game behind champion Temple. SLU defeated LaSalle in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals but fell in the semifinals to Xavier.
Saint Louis vs. The Field of 68
The Billikens went 4-3 against teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In non-conference action, Saint Louis defeated Vermont, 62-43, but lost at New Mexico, 64-60. Among Atlantic 10 opponents, SLU topped St. Bonaventure, fell to Temple and went 2-1 against Xavier.
The Spartans and Billikens both played Texas Southern this season. MSU defeated the Tigers, 76-41, on Nov. 18 in East Lansing, while Saint Louis won, 71-39, on Dec. 27 in St. Louis.
Saint Louis won the only meeting between the two schools, 74-64, in the NIT semifinals on March 27, 1989, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Rick Majerus (Marquette, 1970) is 94-68 (.580) in his fifth season as head coach at Saint Louis. He owns an overall record of 516-215 (.706) in 25 seasons. Majerus won his 500th career game on Dec. 10 over Illinois-Springfield; he is one of 19 active Division I head coaches with 500 or more wins. This marks the 12th time Majerus will be coaching in the NCAA Tournament and his first at Saint Louis. He led Utah to a national runner-up finish in 1998. In 2000, Majerus' Utes were a No. 8 seed and fell to eventual National Champion Michigan State, 73-61, in the second round in Cleveland, Ohio.
Saint Louis is making its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the first since 2000 ... The last time SLU earned an at-large bid was in 1998 ... Senior forward Brian Conklin, who leads the team in scoring with 13.9 points per game, was named first-team Atlantic 10 ... Junior guard Kwamain Mitchell (12.1 ppg) was a third-team all-conference pick and leads the team in steals (42) and assists (122) ... Both Conklin and Mitchell have scored more than 1,000 points in their careers ... Saint Louis leads the Atlantic 10 and ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 57.5 ppg ... The Billikens have held their opponents to 50 points or less on 10 occasions this season, including three times under 40 points ... SLU also ranks 11th in the country in turnover margin (+3.7).
The Book On Tom Izzo
In his 17th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 410-168 (.709), and 196-90 (.685) 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 16 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has won National Coach of the Year honors four times, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001. 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 earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012.
Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .685 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), 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), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Izzo (.709) and Lambert (.709). With 196 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.
Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 16 seasons, Tom Izzo won 383 games, ranking sixth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 16 years.
Izzo's Coaching Tree
Five 2011-12 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 (Tulsa). 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.