Spartans And Huskies Square Off For A Trip To Final Four
 
 
 
Michigan State will face Connecticut on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
 
Michigan State will face Connecticut on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
 
 

March 29, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. -

#4 Michigan State (29-8, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. #7 Connecticut (29-8, 12-6 AAC)
 Date Sunday, March 30, 2014
 Time 2:20 p.m. ET
 Location New York, N.Y. | Madison Square Garden
 Television CBS (Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Game Notes Michigan State | Connecticut
 Statistics  Michigan State | Connecticut
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

THE OPENING TIP
MSU is making its eighth trip to the Elite Eight under Tom Izzo. The Spartans advanced with a 61-59 victory over Virginia. They will face the No. 7-seed UConn Huskies, who advanced with an 81-76 win over Iowa State. The last NCAA Tournament meeting between MSU and UConn was an 82-73 Spartan win in the 2009 Final Four.

MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
* Michigan State is appearing in its eight Elite Eight since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (all under Tom Izzo), posting a 6-1 record in the previous seven trips. MSU is 8-3 all-time in a regional final.

* Tom Izzo's .857 winning percentage (6-1) in the Elite Eight is tied for the second best winning percentage in NCAA Tournament history (minimum six games). Only John Wooden (1.000; 12-0) has a better mark. Izzo is tied with Denny Crum (.857, 6-1) and ranks just ahead of Mike Krzyzewski (.846, 11-2).

* Michigan State's deep NCAA Tournament runs can be attributed to its success with quick turnarounds. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are a remarkable 19-3 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend. All three losses have come to No. 1 seeds.

* Connecticut leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 3-2. The last meeting between the two teams was the Spartans' season opener in 2012, with UConn posting a 66-62 win over MSU in the Armed Forces Classic at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. In 2009, the Spartans topped No. 1-seed UConn, 82-73, in the Final Four to advance to their third national title game. The series dates back to 1998, when Michigan State fell at Connecticut, 68-82, on Dec. 5.

* In the 2012-13 season opener, UConn defeated MSU, 66-62, at Ramstein Air Base. The Huskies led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but MSU battled back to take a 58-56 lead with 5:43 remaining. UConn responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to retake a lead it would not give up. Napier led all scorers with 25 points, while Boatright scored 13 and Deandre Daniels added 12 for UConn. Keith Appling led MSU with 17 points, while Branden Dawson totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds in his first game since returning from an ACL injury. UConn out-shot MSU, 46.3% to 37.5%, but the Spartans held a 43-29 edge on the boards.

* The last meeting between the Spartans and Huskies came in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, when MSU defeated No. 1-seed UConn, 82-73, in the National Semifinals in Detroit's Ford Field. Kalin Lucas led MSU with 21 points and Raymar Morgan added 18. Hasheem Thabeet paced the Huskies with 17 points.

* Since Branden Dawson returned to the starting lineup on March 6, Michigan State is shooting .500, shooting 50 percent or better in four of eight games, and 44 percent or better in seven of eight contests. Over its last five games, MSU is shooting .498. Over the last eight games, Dawson is shooting .658 (52-79) from the field, including .704 (38-54) in the last five contests.

* Branden Dawson is averaging 17.5 points in six postseason games, after entering the postseason averaging 9.7 points. His career high entering the postseason was 20 points - a total he has surpassed in each of his last two contests (26 vs. Harvard, 24 vs. Virginia). He is just the fifth player since 1990 to lead his team to the Elite Eight while averaging 20.0 points (20.0 ppg) and shooting 65 percent from the field (.658), joining Blake Griffin (Oklahoma, 2009), Sean May (North Carolina, 2005), Charles O'Bannon (UCLA, 2007) and Juwan Howard (Michigan, 1994).

* Michigan State is holding opponents to .398 shooting from the floor, ranking first in the Big Ten. In six postseason games, MSU is holding opponents to 65.2 points on .380 shooting (.348 from 3-point range), after allowing 71.2 points on .480 shooting from the field, including .420 from 3-point range, in the previous five games. NCAA Tournament opponents are averaging 70.0 points, but are shooting just .376 from the field (.364 from 3-point range).

* Michigan State is making its 17th straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014. It is the longest current streak among Big Ten schools and third longest in the nation. Only Kansas (25) and Duke (19) have longer current streaks. In fact, it is the fifth-longest of all-time. MSU's streak is the second-longest streak in Big Ten history. Indiana appeared in 18 consecutive tournaments between 1986 and 2003.

* Michigan State is making its 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament with a record of 59-26 (.694) in tournament play.

* Tom Izzo ranks tied for sixth among active coaches for the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage at .737 (42-15). Duke's Mike Krzyzewski ranks first at .759 (82-26), followed by Florida's Billy Donovan (.756, 34-11), Louisville's Rick Pitino (.746, 50-17), Kentucky's John Calipari (.744, 32-11), North Carolina's Roy Williams (.741, 63-22), and SMU's Larry Brown (.737, 14-5). In NCAA Tournament wins, Izzo (42) ranks fifth among active coaches, trailing just Krzyzewski (82), Williams (63), Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (53) and Pitino (50).

* The Big Ten leads the nation with three teams in the Elite Eight (Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin). The SEC (Florida and Kentucky) is second with two squads.

* MSU has used 15 different starting lineups this season, as 11 different Spartans have started at least one game. In 19 of 37 games, and 13 of 18 Big Ten contests, MSU has been without its full allotment of players due to injury. In nine games, the Spartans have been without at least two of their regular rotation players.

* MSU has used the same starting lineup (Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne) for the last eight games. Previously, MSU had not started the same five in more than four straight games.

* Michigan State is shooting .393 from 3-point range (296-of-754), ranking second in the Big Ten. Six Spartans (Gary Harris-77 (2.3), Travis Trice-53 (1.5), Adreian Payne-41 (1.4), Kenny Kaminski-38 (1.3), Denzel Valentine-40 (1.1), and Keith Appling-34 (1.0)) each average at least one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Kaminski leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.500), while Trice ranks fourth (.445), Payne ranks fifth (.436), Appling ranks 14th (.366), and Valentine ranks 15th (.364).

* The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in 14 games (after doing it just once last season) ranking second in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals per game (8.0).

* Gary Harris gets a lot of notoriety for his scoring, as he ranks sixth in the Big Ten (16.6 ppg). But what makes him special is his ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the court, leading the Spartans with 63 steals, ranking fourth in the conference (1.9 spg).

* On the season, Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .476. MSU has shot better than its opponent in all but six games this season, losing all six of those contests.

* In 18 games, the Spartans have posted at least a 10-0 run. MSU has had a run of 8-0 or better in 27 games.

* Keith Appling ranks 18th in career scoring (1,507 points), fourth in career starts (122), tied for fourth in games played (141), seventh in made free throws (389), eighth in 3-point field-goal attempts (412), eighth in steals (151), ninth in assists (463) and 10th in free throw attempts (520). He is also just eight made 3-point field goals (138) from moving into the MSU career Top 10 in that category.

* Michigan State is 80-32 (.714) in March since the 1998-99 season. For his career, Tom Izzo is 87-39 (.690) in March. Over the last five-plus years (2009-present), MSU is 34-12 (.739) in what Coach Izzo calls his favorite month of the year.

* Michigan State is 17-4 away from home this season, including 7-3 on an opponent's home court, and 10-1 on a neutral court.

* After missing seven games with a right foot sprain, Adreian Payne has been a force in his return, averaging 16.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 15 games. He's started the last 14 contests, averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds.

* MSU is 24-3 when Branden Dawson plays, including 20-2 when he starts. In the nine games since Dawson's return, he is averaging 13.9 points and 7.6 rebounds, shooting .635 from the field.

* Michigan State is averaging 16.9 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking sixth in the nation. With 624 assists on 1006 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 62.0 percent of their baskets.

* Through the first 87 games of his career, Adreian Payne shot just 1-of-4 from 3-point range. Over the last 50 games, he is 57-of-135 (.422), averaging more than one made 3-pointer per contest. On 16 occasions, including 14 times this season, he's made more than one in a game.

* Six different Spartans have collected a total of 18 double-doubles this season. Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson lead with six each. Denzel Valentine has three, while Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Matt Costello each have one. No other Big Ten team has more than four different players with a double-double.

* Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzo era. MSU is currently averaging 11.5 turnovers, after averaging just 11.6 in conference. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. In the postseason, MSU is averaging 10.5 turnovers, after averaging 15.3 in the previous four games. In the NCAA Tournament, MSU is averaging 11.7 turnovers.

* Over his last 15 games, Travis Trice is averaging 8.7 points and 2.7 assists with a 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Trice scored a season-high 19 points against Delaware, knocking down 7-of-8 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. For the tournament, he is averaging 9.7 points, shooting .556 from the field and .500 from 3-point range.

* Denzel Valentine is one of just two Spartans to appear in all 37 games, and the only one to appear in every contest averaging more than 10 minutes (29.2 mpg - third on the team). He is the only player in the Big Ten to rank among the top 12 in both rebounding (12th, 5.9 rpg) and assists (8th, 3.8 apg). He's led MSU in assists in 16 games and in rebounding 11 times.

* MSU has won games when scoring in the 50's (1), 60's (5), 70's (8), 80's (8), 90's (6), and 100's (1).

* Four different Spartans have scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Gary Harris leads the way with 10 20-point efforts, while Adreian Payne has nine, Keith Appling has seven and Branden Dawson has three.

* MSU is averaging 76.1 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten. It's MSU's highest scoring team since averaging 78.5 in 2004-05, and the third-best scoring average of the Izzo era.

* MSU is shooting .706 from the foul line this season. MSU is shooting .831 from the foul line in the NCAA Tournament, after entering the tournament shooting .693.

* Keith Appling is averaging a career-best 4.5 assists per game and owns a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, ranking third in the Big Ten in assists and second in assist-to-turnover ratio. He's led MSU in scoring in nine games and in assists 20 times. The Spartans are a perfect 9-0 when Appling leads the team in scoring.

* Senior Adreian Payne is the MSU career leader with 140 blocks, having passed Drew Naymick (134 blocks) in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

* In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 504 of 654 opponents (.771), posting a 400-104 (.794) mark in those games. This season, MSU owns a +5.1 rebounding margin, ranking third in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation, and has out-rebounded 27 of 37 opponents, posting a 22-5 mark when grabbing more rebounds. MSU has out-rebounded 14 of its last 15 opponents, with Virginia stopping a streak of 14 straight. MSU is +5.7 on the glass in NCAA Tournament play.

MSU 2014 NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
* Michigan State is shooting .494 from the field, including .407 from 3-point range, while holding opponents to .376 from the field and .364 from behind the arc.
* MSU is shooting .831 from the foul line (54-65) in three games, after entering the tournament shooting with a .693 free-throw percentage.
* Adreian Payne is averaging a team-best 23.0 ppg in three games.
* Branden Dawson is second on the squad in scoring (20.0 ppg), while leading the Spartans in rebounding (9.0 rpg), shooting .658 from the field.
* Gary Harris (11.3 ppg) is also averaging double-figures in scoring.
* The Spartans own a +5.7 rebounding margin.

SWEET 16 NOTES - #4 MSU 61 - #1 VIRGINIA 59
* MSU improved to 12-6 in the regional semifinals, including 8-6 in Sweet 16 games since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
* Tom Izzo improved to 8-4 in the Sweet 16.
* Branden Dawson recorded his sixth double-double of the season with a game-high 24 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. It is his first career double-double in an NCAA Tournament game.
* For the first time all season, Dawson led MSU in scoring in back-to-back games.
* Although he scored just six points for the game, Gary Harris reached the 1,000-point mark for his career on a three-point play in the first half.
* Virginia out-rebounded MSU, 35-32, snapping a string of 14 straight games in which the Spartans had out-rebounded their opponent.