Bullseye Is Back On Michigan State Basketball Team
Oct. 17, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State may have exceeded expectations last season, pulling off some surprising victories and making its 10th straight NCAA tournament.
But the Spartans won't sneak up on anyone this year. Weeks before their first game, most everyone expects they'll be one of the nation's top 10 or 15 teams in the 2007-08 campaign.
That's fine with coach Tom Izzo, who has run one of the nation's most successful and consistent basketball programs over the past decade.
"The bullseye is back on us, and I'm really happy that it is," Izzo said Wednesday during Michigan State's annual preseason media day.
Just about every significant player is back from last year's team, which finished 23-12 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in a supposed rebuilding year. The Spartans have more experience and talent this season as they're expected to contend for the Big Ten championship and possibly make a deep postseason run.
Drew Neitzel and Travis Walton, who had to play more minutes in the backcourt than Izzo wanted last season, should get some assistance from a trio of promising freshmen and returning guard Isaiah Dahlman.
Fatigue shouldn't be a factor for anyone, and Izzo expects to exploit that depth with a more up-tempo playing style than last season.
"After being forced to slow it down last year, I am pretty determined to run from the day we start," Izzo said.
Neitzel is back for his senior season, coming off a breakout year in which he averaged 18.1 points per game. He started an NCAA Final Four game as a freshman and wants to get back there again this season.
"It's great to be rated high in the preseason. But we know as a team that it doesn't matter where we are right now," Neitzel said. "Come March, that's when we want to be ranked really high. ... We want to take care of business and keep growing as a team."
Neitzel averaged more than 36 minutes per game in Big Ten contests last season. This year, however, he should have more opportunity to catch his breath for a few minutes on the bench.
Three freshmen -- Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen and Durrell Summers -- all could get some playing time in the Michigan State backcourt. They form the core of one of Izzo's most athletic and highly touted recruiting classes.
Add it all up, and expectations are soaring in East Lansing.
"Nothing is a given, especially in this game," Naymick said. "But after working and grinding the way we did last year, we have a better understanding of what it's going to take. We have much more experience."
Michigan State opens its exhibition season Nov. 2 hosting Grand Valley State and its regular season Nov. 13 hosting Chicago State.
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