Oct. 28, 2013
The Opening Tip
The No. 2 Spartans open their exhibition season against Grand Valley State. Michigan State features an experienced lineup that includes four returning starters and six of the team's top seven scorers from last season. MSU will face a Laker squad that returns nine players, including five who started at least one game last season.
The Starting Five
1. MSU In The Rankings
The 2013-14 USA Today Coaches' Preseason Poll was released on Oct. 17, with the Spartans being ranked No. 2. In the various preseason rankings in magazines and web sites, the Spartans are ranked as high as No. 1 (Lindy's Sports College Basketball and Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook), while also being ranked No. 2 by USA Today Sports, the Sporting News, and Dick Vitale, No. 3 by CBSSports.com and ESPN.com, and No. 4 by Athlon Sports College Basketball.
2. Returning Productivity
Michigan State returns six of its top seven scorers from last season, in featuring one of the nation's most experienced rosters to start the season. The Spartans return 84.2 percent of their scoring, 79.3 percent of their rebounding and 84.0 percent of their assists. Five returning Spartans started 15 or more games last season, including four with 24 or more starts. Six returners played 500 or more minutes last season. By comparison, entering last year, just five Spartans had played more than 350 minutes in their career.
3. Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State's first of 16 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 176 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 (159), Kentucky (151), Duke (151) and Connecticut (142).
4. Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball. Not only are Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State all ranked in many preseason Top 10s, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin appear in many Top 25s. Michigan State's single plays are at Wisconsin and Purdue, and hosting Nebraska and Minnesota. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.
5. Scouting The Lakers
Grand Valley State returns nine players, including five who started a game, from last year's squad that posted a 19-9 mark and advanced to the semifinals of the GLIAC Tournament. The Lakers will be led by junior guard Ryan Sabin, who averaged a team-best 10.8 points per contest last season, shooting 88.1 percent from the foul line and 42.7 percent from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Ricardo Carbajal will also be a key contributor, averaging 7.3 points last season in just 16.5 minutes per contest.
MSU Basketball Notes
Strength Of Schedule
Michigan State's 2013-14 schedule promises to provide another stiff test for the Spartans. MSU will play six regular-season games against teams ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll preseason Top 11, with games against No. 1 Kentucky, No. 11 North Carolina and two conference games against both No. 9 Michigan and No. 10 Ohio State. Wisconsin (No. 21) and Indiana (No. 24) are also ranked in the Top 25, while Big Ten foes Iowa and Illinois and non-conference opponent Georgetown also received votes in the poll. In total, the Spartans will face 15 teams that competed in postseason play, playing 19 of 31 regular-season games against postseason participants.
In addition to the predicted team success, several Spartans have been the recipient of preseason honors. Senior Adreian Payne was named first-team All-American by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, while earning third-team honors from Athlon Sports and CBSSports.com. Sophomore Gary Harris was selected as a first-team All-American by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, while being tabbed as a second-team All-American by USA Today Sports, Athlon Sports and CBSSports.com. Harris and Payne are both consensus selections for preseason All-Big Ten honors, but senior Keith Appling and junior Branden Dawson have also earned spots on various all-conference teams.
The Izzo Era
In his 19th season as Michigan State head coach, the 2013-14 campaign will be Izzo's 31st season in East Lansing. An eight-time National Coach of the Year, Izzo has guided MSU to seven Big Ten Championships, three Big Ten Tournament titles, 16 straight NCAA Tournaments, six Final Four appearances, and the 2000 NCAA Championship in his stint as head coach. He is MSU's all-time winningest coach with 439 wins, and is the longest serving active men's basketball coach in the Big Ten. In addition, his 439 victories are the fourth-most by a coach in his first 18 years of coaching in NCAA history.
A Look Back At 2012-13
Michigan State advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six seasons, matching Kansas for the most in the nation during that stretch. MSU posted a 27-9 record, including a 13-5 mark in the Big Ten, finishing one game out of a conference championship. Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling each earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, while Harris was selected Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Michigan State has held opponents below 40 percent shooting for the year in each of the last two seasons, limiting opponents to .390 FG% last year (ranking 22nd in the nation) and .379 FG% in 2011-12 (ranking second in the nation). It's the first time the Spartans have held opponents below 40 percent in back-to-back seasons since MSU did it three straight seasons from 1999-2000 to 2001-02.
It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 14 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 nine times and the Top 25 on 12 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in conference games in 11 of the last 16 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 477 of 617 opponents (.773), posting a 377-100 (.790) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents.
On The Run
Michigan State is eager to get out in transition this season, even more so than normal. Speaking at MSU's annual media day, Izzo told the assembled media "I think we should be a team that can run, run, run and run." With a pair of healthy wings in Gary Harris and Branden Dawson, a fast point guard in Keith Appling, big men such as Adreian Payne and Gavin Schilling that excel in transition, and a deep, talented bench, Michigan State will look to push the pace at every opportunity.