March 21, 2012
|No. 1 Michigan State (29-7, 13-5) vs. No. 4 Louisville (28-9, 10-8)|
|Date||Thursday, March 22|
|Time||7:47 p.m. ET|
|Location||Phoenix, Ariz. | US Airways Center|
|Television||TBS (Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Marty Snider) | Watch Online|
|Radio||Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)|
|Tickets||Available at Ticketmaster.com.|
|Game Notes||Michigan State | Louisville|
|Statistics||Michigan State | Louisville|
|Social Media||@MSU_Basketball | Facebook|
The Opening Tip
Michigan State is making its 10th trip to the Sweet 16 in the last 15 seasons under head coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans advanced to the regional semifinal with wins over LIU Brooklyn and Saint Louis, easily dispatching the Blackbirds and grinding out a win in a physical contest with the Billikens. Next up is a Louisville squad that the Spartans last faced in the 2009 Midwest Regional final.
The Starting Five
1. Spartans In The Sweet 16
This is MSU's 12th trip to the Sweet 16 since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Michigan State is 7-4 in Sweet 16 games, having won seven of its last eight. Tom Izzo is 7-2 in the Sweet 16.
2. Ten Sweet 16s In 15 Years
Since Michigan State's first trip to the NCAA Tournament under Tom Izzo in 1998, the Spartans have advanced to the Sweet 16 10 times in the last 15 years. During that same stretch, only Duke has more Sweet 16 appearances (12), while Kansas and Kentucky both stand behind MSU with nine trips.
3. Postseason Offense
Michigan State's offense has been clicking at a high level in the postseason. In five combined Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament games, the Spartans are averaging 75.8 points, shooting .543 from the field, including .448 from 3-point range. MSU is also recording 15.6 assists per game, compared to just 10.6 turnovers. Through the third round of the NCAA Tournament, MSU leads all tournament teams in field-goal percentage (.570) and ranks fifth in scoring (77.0 ppg).
4. Draymond's Last Hurrah
In the first two games of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Draymond Green has totaled 40 points (20.0 ppg), 25 rebounds (12.5 rpg) and 16 assists (8.0 apg). Since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985, no other player has been able to reach those three numbers in their first two games of an NCAA Tournament.
5. Senior Stretch Run
On Jan. 31, Draymond Green scored five points in 16 minutes, being limited by foul trouble and a late knee injury that appeared to be potentially serious, as MSU fell to Illinois, 42-41. The next day, MSU learned Green's injury was not as serious as originally feared and he vowed to elevate his game. The first game in February was against Michigan, with Green scoring 14 points and grabbing 16 rebounds - the same number as the Wolverines. Since then, Green has played at a high level, averaging 18.6 points and 10.9 rebounds over the last 14 games, scoring in double-figures in every contest. Fellow senior Austin Thornton has also elevated his play, averaging 6.6 points over the last 14 games, connecting on .531 of his 3-pointers.
MSU vs. Louisville Notes
Fourth-seeded Louisville defeated No. 13 seed Davidson in the second round, 69-62, and fifth-seeded New Mexico in the third round, 59-56, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the 18th time in program history. The Cardinals went 10-8 in Big East Conference play to finish seventh, but won four straight to capture the conference tournament.
Louisville vs. The Field of 68
The Cardinals played 15 teams that earned bids to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, posting an 11-8 record. In non-conference play, Louisville defeated Lamar, Ohio, Long Beach State, Vanderbilt, Memphis and Western Kentucky, and lost to Kentucky. In Big East games, Louisville defeated Connecticut and West Virginia and fell to Syracuse (twice), Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Cincinnati and South Florida. Louisville defeated three NCAA teams in the Big East Tournament (Marquette, Notre Dame, Cincinnati).
The Spartans and Cardinals have not played any common opponents this season.
Louisville leads the all-time series against Michigan State, 4-3. The two schools have met twice before in the NCAA Tournament (1959, 2009). In the 1959 Mideast Regional Final in Evanston, Ill., Louisville won, 88-81, despite the Spartans getting 29 points and 23 rebounds from Johnny Green. In the 2009 Midwest Regional Final in Indianapolis, the second-seeded Spartans defeated the top-seeded Cardinals, 64-52, as Tom Izzo advanced to his fifth Final Four. Goran Suton paced the Spartans with 19 points and 10 rebounds, scoring 17 in the first half. Draymond Green was the only player on either current roster to see significant time, recording six points, 10 rebounds and three assists as a freshman. Izzo is 2-1 against Louisville in his career.
Rick Pitino (UMass, `74) is 627-233 (.729) in his 27th year as a college head coach, including 273-105 (.722) in 11 seasons at Louisville. Pitino became the first coach in NCAA history to guide three different schools to the NCAA Final Four when he took the Cardinals in 2005. Pitino has coached five Final Four teams (Providence 1987; Kentucky 1993, 1996 and 1997; Louisville 2005), which ranks fourth among active coaches and tied for eighth all-time, including winning the 1996 NCAA Championship at Kentucky and a runner-up finish in 1997. Pitino is 40-15 in 17 NCAA Tournament appearances.
This is Louisville's 38th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance (62-39 all-time record) ... U of L has won two National Championships (1980, 1986) and been to eight Final Fours ... U of L has limited its opponents to 60 or fewer points in 22 of its 37 outings ... The Cardinals rank in the top five nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.379) ... Louisville also ranks seventh in country with 9.0 steals per game ... Center Gorgui Dieng ranks eighth in the nation in blocked shots (3.1 pg); his 116 blocks this season are a U of L single-season record ... Peyton Siva, the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, has already set a Louisville single-season record with 191 assists.
NCAA Tournament Notes
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.
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.
MSU In The NCAA Tournament
Michigan State is making its 26th appearance in the NCAA Tournament with a record of 54-24. 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.
At His Best When It Counts
Tom Izzo ranks fourth among active coaches for the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage at .740 (37-13). Duke's Mike Krzyzewski ranks first at .767 (79-24), followed by North Carolina's Roy Williams at .759 (60-19), and Florida's Billy Donovan (.750, 27-9). Of those four, Izzo and Krzyzewski are the only coaches to appear in the last 15 NCAA Tournaments.
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.
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 17-3 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend. What's even more impressive is that all three losses have come to No. 1 seeds.
Draymond's NCAA Triple-Doubles
Draymond Green recorded his second NCAA Tournament triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists vs. LIU Brooklyn. It is just the eighth official triple-double in NCAA Tournament history since assists were officially counted in 1984. He is the first player in NCAA Tournament history with two official triple doubles. Unofficially, only Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson (4) has more in tournament history, while MSU's Earvin Johnson also had two unofficial triple-doubles. In total, there have been 16 recorded tournament triple-doubles, with MSU players accounting for 25 percent of them.
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.
Spartan Opponents In NCAA Tournament
Ten Michigan State opponents were 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 were a combined 12-5 against the 10 teams, playing 17 of their 34 regular-season 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 opened the NCAA Tournament with six schools in the field of 68. Four Big Ten schools have advanced to the Sweet 16, with the conference schools posting a 9-2 record through the third round.
Michigan State ranks seventh among all schools in NCAA Tournament winning percentage for teams with at least 20 tournament games. MSU's .692 winning percentage (54-24) trails only Duke (.748, 95-32), UCLA (.731, 95-35), North Carolina (.728, 107-40), Florida (.721, 31-12), Kentucky (.699, 107-46), and Kansas (.698, 90-39). MSU's 54 tournament wins rank ninth in NCAA history and second among Big Ten schools, behind Indiana (62).
Notes from Second & Third Rounds
* MSU is shooting .570 from the field, tops among all NCAA Tournament teams.
* Draymond Green leads the Spartans in scoring (20.0 ppg), rebounding (12.5 rpg) and assists (8.0 apg).
* Keith Appling (14.5 ppg), Derrick Nix (14.0 ppg) and Adreian Payne (10.0) join Green as double-figure scorers.
* MSU ranks second among all tournament teams with a +13.5 rebound margin.
MSU vs. Saint Louis Notes
* Michigan State improved to 10-1 in round of 32 games under Tom Izzo.
* Draymond Green recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
* Keith Appling scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, while Green also scored 11 of his 16 after the break.
* Michigan State committed just two of its nine turnovers after the half, while Saint Louis did not have a second-half turnover.
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.
MSU's Center Tandem
Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne form a dynamic one-two punch in the middle for MSU. On the year, they combine for 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 36.7 minutes of action. They've elevated their play in the postseason, averaging 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds, shooting .625 from the floor, in five combined Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament games.
Strong Spartan Defense
MSU's defensive effort has been impressive this season. The Spartans are allowing just 59.4 points (ranking 18th in the nation through March 16) on .379 shooting (3rd in nation), including .296 from 3-point range (14th 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 24 have shot under 41 percent, including five below 30 percent.
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 .379 field-goal percentage, the lowest total of the Tom Izzo era. The previous low was .384 in 2006-07. MSU currently ranks third in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and fourth in rebounding margin (+8.3), as the only team in the nation to rank in the Top 5 in both categories (through March 16).
Over the last four years, the Spartans have posted a 107-38 record, won three Big Ten titles, a Big Ten Tournament crown, appeared in four NCAA Tournaments and advanced to two Final Fours. The 107 wins rank as the fourth-winningest class in MSU history, trailing the 2010 class (109) by two.
Climbing The Rebounding Charts
With 1,080 career rebounds, Draymond Green ranks second in MSU history, 12 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. This season, Green leads the Big Ten and ranks 13th in the nation in rebounding (through March 16). He also ranks fourth in the nation with 21 double-doubles.
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 Exclusive Company
Currently averaging 16.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg and 3.9 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.
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 four finalists for the Naismith Award and one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. He's on the John R. Wooden Award Final Ballot, and the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List, presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. 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.
MSU In March
Michigan State is 68-26 (.723) in March since the 1998-99 season. For his career, Tom Izzo is 75-33 (.694) in March. Over the last three-plus years, MSU is 22-6 in what Coach Izzo calls his favorite month of the year.
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 51 made 3-pointers and 127 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 seven 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 11). Since 1996-97, Evan Turner is the only player from a power six conference to have as many games in a single season, recording seven in 2009-10.
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 30 of 36 games, including 16 of 18 Big Ten contests. He's led MSU in scoring in 20 games, and paced the Spartans in assists in 14 contests. In seven of the last 16 games, he's led in scoring, rebounding and assists. In the 14 games in which he's recorded at least five assists and five rebounds, the Spartans are a perfect 14-0. He's the only player in the Big Ten to rank in the top 10 in scoring (5th), 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 30 games, however, the Spartans have been on target, connecting on .396 of their shots (170-429) 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 10.5 rebounds per game, ranking 13th in the nation (through March 16), including a conference-best 10.6 rebounds per game in league contests. His 10.5 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 24 games, including 16 of the last 21 and 19 of the last 26. He has led MSU in rebounding in 30 of 36 games this season.
Four different Spartans have recorded a double-double this season. Draymond Green leads the way with 21 double-doubles, pacing the Big Ten and ranking fourth in the nation (through March 16). Green has posted a double-double in 17 of the last 25 games. Branden Dawson has posted three double-doubles, and Adreian Payne and Brandon Wood have each recorded one double-double. Green has tallied 39 career double-doubles, ranking second most by a Spartan since 1975-76, trailing only Greg Kelser (48). He (16.3 ppg, 10.5 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 28 of 36 opponents by a +8.3 margin, including nine by 15 or more, leading the Big Ten and ranking fourth in the nation (through March 16). 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 445 of 580 opponents (.767), posting a 352-93 (.791) 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 14th in the nation (through March 16), allowing opponents to shoot just .296 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-one opponents have shot .300 or lower, including 14 of the last 22.
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 (16.3 ppg), rebounding (10.5 rpg), minutes (33.1 mpg), steals (53), and 3-point field goals (51), while ranking second in assists (3.9 apg) and blocks (34). He leads the Big Ten in rebounding and defensive rebounds (8.3 drpg), while ranking fifth in scoring, fifth in steals, seventh in offensive rebounds (2.2 orpg), eighth in assists, 12th in blocks, and 12th 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 412 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 25th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in assists with 15.4 per game (NCAA ranking through March 16). The Spartans have recorded an assist on 58.6 percent of their baskets. Over the last 29 games, the Spartans are averaging 15.9 assists.
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 30 games, however, MSU has shown dramatic improvement, hitting .494 from the field and .396 from 3-point range. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in 16 of the last 29 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 36 games, while Green and Payne have started 35. Austin Thornton has started the last 14.
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 4.1 assists in his last 34 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 4.3 assists in the last 29 games, including a career-best 9 vs. Iowa. He owns a 1.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last 29 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, 433-330, in second-chance points for the season. That's an average of +2.8 points per game (12.0-9.2). The Spartans are averaging 11.6 offensive boards per game, ranking third in the Big Ten. MSU has 419 offensive rebounds on the year compared to 714 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.
Eight different Spartans have led Michigan State in scoring this season. Draymond Green (20 times), Keith Appling (seven times), Branden Dawson (four times), Brandon Wood (three times), Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, Austin Thornton and Travis Trice also have each paced MSU.
What A Difference A Year Makes
Derrick Nix is averaging 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 18.9 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 9.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in the last 29 games. In the first 73 games of his career, Nix scored in double figures just three times; he's done it 13 times in the last 29 contests, scoring eight or more points in 20 of the last 29 games. He's scored in double figures in each of the last three games, doing so for the first time in his career. He's been MSU's first sub in 32 of the 35 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 32.7 percent of the scoring and 38.0 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.
The Turnover Story
MSU is committing 12.9 turnovers per game, while forcing 12.7 by its opponents. The Spartans are averaging 14.6 points per game off opponent turnovers, compared to 11.9 points by opponents off MSU turnovers. The Spartans are 12-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent, but 12-7 when they have more (5-0 when equal).
In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of 34.6-21.9, out-scoring 32 of its 36 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. In the second round of the NCAA Tournament vs. LIU Brooklyn, the Spartans scored a season-high 62 points in the paint.
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 .709 over the last 31 games. For the season, MSU is shooting .697 from the foul line, averaging 20.9 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 1,504 points, he ranks 17th in MSU history, needing 31 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.
MSU vs. Marquette Notes
Third-seeded Marquette (27-7) advanced to its second-straight Sweet 16 by defeating No. 14 seed BYU, 88-68, in the second round and sixth-seeded Murray State, 62-53, in the third round. MU went 14-4 in the Big East to finish second in the regular-season.
Marquette vs. The Field of 68
Marquette played 11 teams that earned bids to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, compiling a 9-6 record in those games. In non-conference play, the Golden Eagles tallied wins over Norfolk State (twice) and Wisconsin. MU did lose to Vanderbilt before conference play. In the Big East regular season, the Golden Eagles beat Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut and West Virginia, split with Cincinnati and Georgetown, and fell to Syracuse and Notre Dame. In the Big East Tournament quarterfinals, Marquette lost to eventual champion Louisville.
The Spartans and Golden Eagles played two common opponents this season (Wisconsin and Milwaukee). MSU went 3-0 against the Badgers and beat Milwaukee, 68-55, on Nov. 23 in East Lansing. Marquette won at Wisconsin, 61-54, on Dec. 3 and beat Milwaukee, 64-50, on Dec. 22.
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Marquette, 31-23, including a 2-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament. In the 1959 first round, MSU defeated Marquette, 74-69, in Raleigh, N.C. As a No. 9 seed, the Spartans topped the eighth-seeded Golden Eagles, 61-49, in the first round of the 2007 tournament, which was also the last meeting between the two schools. That game marked the only time Tom Izzo has faced Marquette.
Buzz Williams (Oklahoma City, `94), who is in his fourth season as head coach at Marquette, owns a 96-44 record at MU and has guided the Golden Eagles to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, a first for the program since 1976-77. He has a 5-3 mark in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to accepting the head job at Marquette, Williams was an assistant on former coach Tom Crean's staff for one season (2007-08). He went 14-17 in his lone season as head coach at New Orleans in 2006-07.
Golden Eagle Notes
Marquette is making its seventh-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 30th overall ... MU has made three Final Four appearances (1974, 1977, 2003) and won the National Championship under legendary coach Al McGuire in 1977 over North Carolina ... Marquette was the only team to feature two All-Big East first-team selections (Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom) ... Crowder, who was named the Big East Player of the Year, ranks among the Big East leaders in scoring (fourth at 17.6 ppg), rebounding (eighth at 8.4 rpg) and steals (second at 2.5 spg) ... Johnson-Odom is second in the Big East in scoring with 18.5 ppg ... The Golden Eagles rank among the nation's top 25 leaders in assists (seventh with 16.7 apg), steals (12th with 8.7 spg), turnover margin (18th at 3.4) and assist/turnover ratio (23rd at 1.3).
MSU vs. Florida Notes
Seventh-seeded Florida (25-10) cruised to the Sweet 16 for the sixth time under head coach Billy Donovan with a 71-45 victory over No. 10 Virginia in the second round and a 84-50 win against No. 15 seed Norfolk State in the third round. The Gators went 10-6 in SEC play and finished tied for second in the regular-season standings.
Florida vs. The Field of 68
Florida played seven teams that earned bids to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, compiling a 5-6 record in those games. In non-conference play, the Gators defeated Florida State and Mississippi Valley State, but fell to Ohio State and Syracuse. In SEC conference games, UF topped Alabama, split with Vanderbilt, and lost twice to Kentucky. During the SEC Tournament in New Orleans, the Gators beat Alabama in the quarterfinals and lost to Kentucky in the semifinals.
The Spartans and Gators played two common opponents this season (Ohio State and Florida State). MSU went 3-1 in those games (2-1 vs. Ohio State; 1-0 vs. Florida State), while UF went 1-1 (lost to Ohio State, 81-74; beat Florida State, 82-64).
The all-time series between MSU and Florida is tied at 3-3. Tom Izzo is 3-2 against Florida in his career, with all of the matchups coming against Billy Donovan. The two programs have met twice before in the NCAA Tournament, including the 2000 National Championship game as the Spartans defeated the Gators, 89-76, in Indianapolis. As a No. 7 seed, MSU beat second-seeded Florida in the second round of the 2003 tournament in Tampa, 68-46. In the last meeting, Florida upset second-ranked Michigan State on Nov. 27, 2009, in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, N.J.
Billy Donovan (Providence, `87), who is in his 16th season as the head coach of the Gators, is the all-time winningest coach in Florida history with a 385-157 (.710) record. Only Kentucky's Adolph Rupp (.842) owns a better winning percentage through 500 games at an SEC school. Donovan is also the third-winningest coach in SEC history, trailing only Rupp (875) and Dale Brown of LSU (448). Over Donovan's 18-year career, he has compiled a 420-177 (.704) overall record. Donovan is one of just 13 coaches in NCAA history and one of four active coaches to win multiple national titles (2006, 2007). He owns a .750 winning percentage (27-9 record) in the NCAA Tournament, ranking third among active coaches, including three trips to the Final Four (2000, 2006, 2007). This marks his 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and his sixth trip to the Sweet 16. Prior to coaching at Florida, Donovan went 35-20 (.636) in two years at Marshall. Before becoming a head coach, Donovan spent five years on Rick Pitino's staff at Kentucky.
The Gators are making their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance ... This marks Florida's eighth appearance in the Sweet 16 ... Florida is one of just 14 schools to win multiple national championships (2006, 2007) and has made four appearances in the Final Four (1994, 2000, 2006, 2007) ... Florida has won 20 or more games in each of the past 14 seasons, the longest such streak in the SEC and the fifth-longest in the nation ... Kenny Boynton (16.1 ppg) and Bradley Beal (14.6 ppg) earned first-team All-SEC honors from the coaches, while Erving Walker (12.1 ppg; 4.6 apg) was named second-team ... Beal is the first player in Florida history to receive All-Freshman and first-team All-SEC accolades in the same season ... Walker owns the Florida career assists record (currently with 537) ... Boynton ranks second in the SEC in 3-pointers made (107) and third in scoring (16.1 ppg) ... The Gators are the top 3-point shooting team in the nation, averaging 9.7 per game ... Florida ranks first in the SEC and 10th in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (1.3).
The Book On Tom Izzo
In his 17th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 412-168 (.710), 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 17 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has won National Coach of the Year honors seven times in five different seasons, 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. This season, he was named National Coach of the Year by CBSSports.com. 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 (.728), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Izzo (.710) 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.