March 20, 2013
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The most eye-catching matchup in Michigan State's NCAA Tournament-opener against Valparaiso will be between Spartan forward Adreian Payne and Crusader counterpart Ryan Broekhoff.
Think of a giraffe playing tag with a kangaroo - Broekhoff hails from Australia, after all.
The 6-foot-10 Payne will bear some of the responsibility for guarding Broekhoff, a 6-7 shooter who leads the Horizon League with in 3-point field goals per game (2.6, 82 overall) and 3-point shooting accuracy (43.2 percent), and is Valpo's top rebounder (7.3).
Payne has no problem with straying away from the low post, where most players his size reside, and will give the Crusaders something to think about with 45.5-percent (15 of 33) 3-point shooting that complements his propensity for making thunderous dunks.
"He's a great shooter," Payne said of Broekhoff during Wednesday's media session. "He's got a quick trigger like (Ohio State's Deshaun) Thomas and he's on the ball going both ways like (Indiana's Christian) Watford, so he's going to be a tough cover.
"I'm just going to have to buckle down and get ready to trail these pindowns."
Payne's mobility should open things up for Derrick Nix inside.
"With coach (Tom Izzo) playing Nix and I together, we've felt more comfortable," Payne said. "And with me being more of a perimeter guy now, I'm able to shoot the ball consistently and I'm getting the ball into the post to Nix, and Nix is able to make moves down low and get buckets."
GoG Notes & Quotes: Second-year Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew took over the Crusader program from his father Homer, who opened the 2000 NCAA Tournament with a 68-38 loss to Izzo's Spartans.
Nevertheless, even though that victory propelled MSU to the national championship, Izzo and Homer Drew build a strong relationship over the years. They also shared Brandon Wood, who graduated after playing two seasons at Valparaiso and transferred to Michigan State for his final season in 2011-12.
"Homer Drew and I are fairly good friends and when Brandon wanted to transfer, I said I wasn't going to take him. And then, Homer called me back and said, `Listen, he wants to go. He's going to go somewhere and I'd love to have him go to your place.' There was a very amicable deal there."
Wood, who helped lead MSU to a Big Ten Championship and is currently playing professionally for Szekesfehervar in the Hungarian league, appeared to be adhering to a policy of neutrality, at least as far as his former Spartan teammates are concerned.
"I spoke with Brandon as soon as we found out that we were playing Valpo," said MSU point guard Keith Appling. "It didn't seem that he was on either side; he just wanted us to go out there and play well. He asked me to tell the other guys that he says, `Hello.'"
In fitting with Valparaiso's brown and yellow uniforms, the Crusaders will attack the Spartans with the killer Bs - Buggs, Boggs, Bogan and Broekhoff.
Erik Buggs, Ben Boggs, Will Bogan and Ryan Broekhoff have been in Valparaiso's starting lineup for much of the season.
Izzo said the Spartans are as healthy as they've been all season except for freshman guard Gary Harris, who continues to deal with painful shoulder issues. Harris indicated there¡¯s no need for concern.
"I feel pretty good right now," he said. "I don't really think about it much. I go out there and play, and it's really not much else I can do about it."