Oct. 28, 2011
|Michigan State vs. Ferris State
||Sunday, Oct. 30
||2 p.m. ET
||East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
| Internet Streaming
||Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
|| Available at MSUSpartans.com.
| Internet Coverage
| Social Media
||@MSU_Basketball | Facebook
The Spartans will have a little bit of a different look in 2011-12. 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. Conversely, seven players on the roster have never played a minute for Michigan State (Russell Byrd, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice, Keenan Wetzel, Brandon Wood).
Scouting The Bulldogs
Ferris State returns eight letterwinners from a squad that posted a 24-8 record last season, reaching the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen and the Midwest Regional Championship game. FSU's leading returning scorer is junior guard Kenny Brown, who averaged 9.2 points last season.
Toughest Start Ever
Michigan State will open the season with the toughest start in the nation. The Spartans open against North Carolina in the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11 in San Diego. The Tar Heels are a consensus preseason No. 1 pick. Four days later, MSU will face Duke in Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic. The Blue Devils are a consensus preseason Top 10 squad. 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.
Another Strong Non-Conference Schedule
While much of the attention is directed at back-to-back games vs. North Carolina and Duke, there is more meat to MSU's non-conference schedule. Other highlights include a Nov. 30 game vs. Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, a top-three pick in the ACC, and a Dec. 10 trip to Gonzaga. In total, seven of MSU's 13 non-conference opponents appeared in the 2011 postseason, including five teams in the NCAA Tournament. Including Big Ten foes, 15 Spartan opponents appeared in last year's postseason, including 11 in the NCAA Tournament.
Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State's first of 14 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 147 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (142), Connecticut (138), Kentucky (136) and Duke (132).
Draymond's Senior Campaign
Senior forward Draymond Green is a familiar face among all the new ones in the Michigan State lineup. A three-year captain, Green is on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list, and a preseason All-Big Ten selection by Lindy's Sports College Basketball and Sporting News College Basketball. Rated the No. 2 small forward in the nation by Lindy's, Green was one of just 10 players in the nation to lead his team in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and assists (4.1 apg) last year. Named to Dick Vitale's All-Solid Gold Preseason All-America Fourth Team, he has tallied 18 career double-doubles, and is one of just three players in school history to record a triple-double, ranking second with two.
Looking For A Super Sophomore Year
Michigan State's second-most experienced player is sophomore guard Keith Appling, although he'll be taking on a little bit of a different role this year. Last season, Appling opened exclusively on the wing, but made the transition to back-up point midway through the conference schedule. That experience will come in handy as he's the likely candidate to open the season as MSU's starting point guard. As a freshman, Appling averaged 6.4 points and 1.3 assists, scoring in double figures on eight occasions.
MSU's Freshman Class
Michigan State welcomes in a three-member freshman scholarship class: Brandan Dawson, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice. Dawson was a 2011 McDonald's All-American and a PARADE Magazine Third-Team All-American, averaging 28.7 points, 18.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a senior at Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Ind. Kearney was a 2011 Class A First-Team All-State honoree, averaging 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists at Detroit Southeastern High School. Trice was named the 2011 Gatorade Ohio Boys Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 23.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 3.3 rebounds at Wayne High School in Ohio.
An Experienced New Face
Although he has never played a minute for Michigan State, senior Brandon Wood brings a wealth of college basketball experience to the Spartan lineup. A two-time All-Horizon League performer at Valparaiso the last two seasons, Wood transfered to MSU in May after receiving his sports marketing and business degree. NCAA rules allow an institution to apply for a waiver to allow a student-athlete to transfer without sitting out a season, provided the student-athlete has earned a bachelor's degree, has eligibility remaining and is enrolling in a graduate-level program. In two seasons at Valpo, Wood scored 1,117 points, including averaging 17.7 ppg as a sophomore and 16.7 ppg as a junior. He's also performed at a high level against some of the nation's best teams, scoring 30 points vs. North Carolina, 24 vs. Michigan State and 21 vs. Purdue as a sophomore, followed by 20 vs. Purdue as a junior.
Spartan Big Men
While Draymond Green gets a lot of attention in the Spartan frontcourt, he'll need his teammates to step up to make the unit strong. Sophomore center Adreian Payne and junior center Derrick Nix had strong summers and are both looking at breakout seasons this year. Payne suffered through a lingering shoulder injury for much of last season, but showed flashes of the skill set that led Coach Izzo to call him one of the most athletic big men he'd ever coached. His best game last season came against his home state Buckeyes, as he scored 10 points in 11 minutes at Ohio State (2/15). Nix dropped nearly 25 pounds and enters the season weighing 270. In addition to weight loss, Nix's body has undergone a transformation, allowing increased stamina on the court. In short stints last season, Nix showed excellent footwork and a strong array of post moves. In back-to-back games vs. Indiana (1/30) and Iowa (2/2), he averaged 10.5 points. Redshirt freshman Alex Gauna should also contribute to the Spartan frontcourt. The big forward adds the pick-and-pop threat to the offense.
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.
Keith Appling and Draymond Green both benefitted 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.