Oct. 31, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State closes exhibition play against St. Cloud State on Friday. MSU defeated Northwood (Fla.), 85-57, on Tuesday, as five Spartans scored in double-figures, led by Branden Dawson with 16 points. The Huskies enter the year ranked No. 19 in the Basketball Times Division II Preseason Poll, returning three starters from last season. Tom Izzo's nephew, Kevin Levandoski, is a sophomore guard for St. Cloud State.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Another Tough Start
Last year, MSU opened the schedule with back-to-back games against ranked opponents for the first time in school history. While that won't be the case this season, the start of the year is no less formidable. The Spartans open the season in Germany, playing UConn at Ramstein Air Base in the Armed Forces Classic on Nov. 9. Four days later, the Spartans will play No. 7 Kansas, the 2012 National Runner-Up, in the Champions Classic in Atlanta, Ga. This is the first time since 1918-19 and 1919-20 that Michigan State will open the season with two games away from East Lansing in back-to-back seasons.
2. More Non-Conference Highlights
Michigan State will travel to Miami for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 28. The highlight of the home schedule is a game against Texas on Dec. 22. In addition, MSU is returning to Jenison Field House for the first time since 1989, hosting Tuskegee on Dec. 15, while also celebrating the 50th anniversary season of the "Game of Change" contest between Mississippi State and Loyola in the 1963 NCAA Tournament at Jenison.
3. Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State's first of 15 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 163 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 (151), Kentucky (146), Duke (142) and Connecticut (136).
4. Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball. Indiana (No. 1), Ohio State (No. 4), Michigan (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 14), and Wisconsin (No. 21) are all ranked in the Preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, while Minnesota received votes. To make matters more difficult for MSU, the Spartans will play each of the those other five teams twice during conference play. Michigan State's single plays are at Iowa and Penn State, and hosting Illinois and Northwestern. Last season, eight of the 12 league teams participated in the postseason, including five teams in the NCAA Tournament.
5. Spartan Captains
Senior Derrick Nix and red-shirt sophomore Russell Byrd will serve as team captains during the 2012-13 season. They were chosen by a vote of their teammates, and Tom Izzo made the announcement at MSU Men's Basketball Media Day on October 9.
MORE MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Scouting The Huskies
St. Cloud State returns three starters from last season's 20-9 squad, including two seniors, guard Shawn Jensen and forward Theo Rothstein. Jensen led the Huskies in both scoring (13.8 ppg) and assists (4.9 apg) a year ago, earning 2012 All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) honors. Rothstein averaged 11.7 points in 2011-12. Junior center Tim Bergstraser averaged 12.8 points and a team-best 7.5 rebounds, despite standing just 6-foot-6. The Huskies are ranked No. 19 in the Basketball Times Division II Preseason Poll, and picked fourth in the NSIC Preseason Coaches Poll.
Michigan State defeated Northwood, 85-57, on Oct. 30, in the first exhibition game of the season. Branden Dawson, in his return from an ACL injury suffered on the same court in March, led five Spartans in double figures with 16 points. In his Spartan debut, Gary Harris scored 14 points, adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Derrick Nix scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Travis Trice (12 points) and Alex Gauna (10 points) were also in double figures. After a sluggish first half, the Spartans shot 56.8 percent from the field, including 41.7 percent from 3-point range, in a 51-point second half.
Michigan State returns four of its top six scorers and 10 of its top 13 scorers from last season. The Spartans return 58.6% of their minutes, 57.6% percent of their scoring, 51.7% of their rebounding, and 54.8% percent of their assists. Keith Appling was the only player to start all 37 games last year, while Adreian Payne (36) and Branden Dawson (31) also started more than 30 contests. In addition, Derrick Nix has started 18 games in his career. Coversely, only five returners have played more than 350 minutes in their time at MSU.
A Look Back At 2011-12
Michigan State entered the 2011-12 season unranked, and opened the schedule with a loss to No. 1 North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson in the Carrier Classic, followed by a loss to No. 6 Duke in Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic. The Spartans bounced back with a 15-game winning streak, including wins at No. 23 Gonzaga and No. 18 Wisconsin and a home win over No. 13 Indiana. MSU lost three of its next five Big Ten games, but responded with a seven-game winning streak, including wins over No. 23 Michigan, at No. 3 Ohio State and against No. 15 Wisconsin. The streak secured a share of Michigan State's third Big Ten title in the last four years. After dropping the final two games of the regular season, MSU captured its third Big Ten Tournament in school history, defeating No. 14 Wisconsin in the semifinals and No. 7 Ohio State in a classic finals matchup. The tournament championship secured a No. 1 seed for MSU in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament, where the Spartans advanced to their 10th Sweet 16 in the last 15 years, good for second most in the nation, before falling to Louisville.
MSU In The Rankings
While Michigan State proved last season that preseason rankings don't determine success, becoming just the 10th team to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after entering the season unranked, they are still worth noting. The Spartans are ranked as high as No. 6 (CBSSports.com), and as low as No. 22 (Sporting News), with several others in between: No. 7 (Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook), No. 9 (ESPN.com), No. 10 (Athlon Sports College Basketball), No. 14 (USA Today Coaches Poll & Associated Press), No. 16 (Lindy's Sports College Basketball).
Michigan State welcomes a talented and decorated class to the team in 2012-13. Gary Harris was a 2012 McDonald's All-American, and the recipient of the Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Basketball award, averaging 25.4 points at Hamilton Southeastern. Matt Costello was the Hal Schram Michigan Mr. Basketball Award winner after averaging 25 points and 19 rebounds as a senior at Bay City Western. Denzel Valentine led Lansing Sexton to back-to-back Class B state championships, and was the 2012 Associated Press Class B Player of the Year after nearly averaging a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Kenny Kaminski missed most of his senior season at Medina with a shoulder injury, but returned in time to lead his team to the Elite Eight of the state tournament. Harris, Costello and Valentine all are expected to contribute this year, while a different shoulder injury makes Kaminski a possible redshirt candidate.
The Izzo Era
In his 18th season as Michigan State head coach, the 2012-13 campaign will be Izzo's 30th 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, 15 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 412 wins, and is the longest serving active men's basketball coach in the Big Ten. In addition, his 412 victories are the second-most by a coach in his first 17 years of coaching in NCAA history.