Nov. 7, 2013
THE OPENING TIP
The No. 2 Spartans open the regular season at home against McNeese State on Friday night. This is the first time since 2010 that Michigan State will open the season with a home game, as the Spartans have not lost a season opener at home since 1970.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. For Openers
Michigan State is 90-24 all-time in openers, winning 33 of the last 36. The only three losses in the last 36 years came last year to Connecticut in the Armed Forces Classic in Germany, to No. 1 North Carolina in the 2011 Carrier Classic, on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in Coronado, Calif., and in November 2005, when MSU fell at Hawai'i, 84-62. Prior to that, the Spartans' last loss in an opener came on Nov. 29, 1976, when they fell to Central Michigan, 81-76.
2. For Openers, Part II
Michigan State is 96-18 all-time in home openers. The Spartans last lost a home opener on Dec. 4, 1976, falling to Western Michigan, 74-73. Overall, the Spartans are 79-11 in season openers at home. The Spartans last lost a season opener at home Dec. 1, 1970, to Northern Illinois, 76-75.
3. Early Openers
Michigan State's season opener on Nov. 8 equals the earliest season opener in school history. In 2006, the Spartans opened against Brown on Nov. 8. It will be a busy opening month for Michigan State, playing seven games in total, tied for the second most in November with 2011-12 and 2012-13. The Spartans played eight November contests in 2006-07.
4. MSU In November
Michigan State has an all-time record of 100-30 in games played in the month of November. This includes a 71-3 mark at home. The last team to beat MSU at home in November was a David Robinson-led Navy squad that bested the Spartans, 91-90, in overtime on Nov. 29, 1986. Tom Izzo is 49-0 all-time at home in November.
5. 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.
MSU VS. MCNEESE STATE NOTES
Dave Simmons is 101-116 in his eighth season as head coach at McNeese State, and 128-145 in his 10th season as a collegiate head coach. Simmons led the Cowboys to a Southland Conference regular-season championship in 2011 and an appearance in the NIT. One year later, McNeese made an appearance in the 2012 CBI. As a player, Simmons scored 1,563 points at Louisiana Tech, and was later an assistant at his alma mater when NBA All-Star Karl Malone played for the Bulldogs.
This is the first-ever meeting betwen Michigan State and McNeese State. The Spartans are 6-0 against current members of the Southland Conference, going 3-0 against both Lamar and Nicholls State. MSU will play Southland Conference member New Orleans later this season.
About McNeese State
McNeese State junior guard Kevin Hardy and junior forward Desharick Guidry have been named to the 2013-14 All-Southland Conference men's basketball preseason second team ... Hardy was a member of the 2013 SLC All-Defense Team and enters the year with 94 career steals ... Senior guard Ledrick Eackles is the son of former NBA player Ledell Eackles ... Guidry led the Cowboys in scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg) last season, ranking 14th in the conference and seventh in rebounding ... Former Detroit Pistons star and current Pistons President of Basketall Operations Joe Dumars played at McNeese State and was a first-round pick in the NBA Draft in 1985 after a senior season in which he ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (25.8 ppg). Joe's older brother David is an assistant coach with the Cowboys.
MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Michigan State cruised to victory in a pair of exhibition contests, defeating Grand Valley State, 101-52, and Indiana (Pa.), 83-45. The Spartans averaged 92.0 points in the two games, shooting .538 from the field and .491 from 3-point range, while also holding a +15.5 rebounding margin. One of the most impressive stats is that the Spartans totaled 47 assists and 19 turnovers in two exhibition games, after totaling 34 assists and 37 turnovers in two exhibition games last season.
Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball, an honor bestowed on it by ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman on Nov. 5. Not only are Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State all ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll preseason Top 10, Wisconsin and Indiana are also ranked, while Iowa is just outside the Top 25. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.
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 non-conference games against No. 1 Kentucky and 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.
MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are ranked No. 2 in both the USA Today Coaches' Preseason Poll and the Associated Press Top 25. 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.
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.
Appling Runs The Team
Senior Keith Appling is in his third season as Michigan State's starting point guard, gaining more confidence each season. He's ranked in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in assists in each of the last two seasons, but he's spoken this offseason about becoming better at running his team, gaining praise from Coach Izzo for his development. The exhibition season showed some of the strides he's made, totaling 15 assists and just two turnovers in two games, including 11 assists and no turnovers against Indiana (Pa.). But he also showed he could still be a scoring threat if needed, leading MSU with 17 points in the first exhibition game vs. Grand Valley State. In two games, he shot .545 (6-of-11) from 3-point range.
An Efficient Harris
Following a season that saw him earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, Gary Harris is looking for an even better season as a sophomore. After opting to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season rather than enter the NBA Draft, Harris enters 2013-14 as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honoree and a popular pick for preseason All-America accolades.
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. This was on display in the exhibition season, as the Spartans averaged 92.0 points over the two games.
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).
Michigan State was announced as a unanimous preseason favorite for the conference championship at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Oct. 31. Michigan was picked to finish second and Ohio State was third. Spartan sophomore Gary Harris was tabbed the preseason player of the year, and senior Adreian Payne joined Harris on the preseason All-Big Ten squad.
1,000 Point Scorers
Last season, Keith Appling became the 43rd player in Michigan State history to record 1,000 career points, and just the 29th player to reach the milestone in three seasons. With 1,118 career points, he ranks 36th in MSU career scoring, 28 points behind Pete Gent (1,146 points) and 27 behind Lindsay Hairston (1,155 points). With 723 points, Adreian Payne is on pace to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.
Michigan State is 327-46 (.877) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 171-35 (.830) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 253-31 (.891) at Breslin, including a 130-22 (.855) conference record. MSU has won 34 of the last 36 games at Breslin.
Payne's Block Party
Senior Adreian Payne is third in Michigan State history with 113 career blocks, just four blocks behind Draymond Green, who ranks second with 117. Drew Naymick is the MSU career leader with 134 blocks. Payne blocked a career-best five shots in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament against Memphis, en route to 46 on the season, good for the sixth best single-season effort in school history.
Robertson Trophy Watch List
Senior forward Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Gary Harris are two of 15 players named to the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy Preseason Watch List. The preseason watch list was selected by the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Michigan State is the only school with two players on the list of 15. The award will be presented to the national player of the year by its namesake at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14, 2014 in Oklahoma City. The Big Ten leads all conference with four candidates as Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Michigan's Mitch McGary are also on the list.
Improved Outside Shooting
In two exhibition contests, Michigan State shot .491 from 3-point range (27-of-55). Four different Spartans made at least five 3-pointers as Russell Byrd hit 5-of-6, Gary Harris and Keith Appling each connected on 6-of-11 attempts, and Travis Trice hit 6-of-14 from behind the arc. Last season, the Spartans shot .338 from 3-point range, hitting 177-of-523. The 2003-04 squad was the best shooting team of the Tom Izzo era, shooting .401, while the 1989-90 squad shot a school-record .431.
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 Fifth Starter
Most of Michigan State's starting lineup is pretty-much etched in stone as Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne all return from the 2012-13 starting lineup. But the fifth spot is a little bit more unsettled. Sophomore Matt Costello earned the start in both of Michigan State's exhibition games, averaging 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds. But he'll also have competition from red-shirt junior Alex Gauna and freshman Gavin Schilling. It's a little bit of center-by-committee, with the three combining to average 14.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in two exhibition games.
Michigan State could feature as many as three freshmen in its playing group, including red-shirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, and true freshmen Alvin Ellis III and Gavin Schilling. Kaminski redshirted last season following a shoulder injury he suffered last fall. He provides a big man with excellent shooting ability for the Spartans. Ellis III and Schilling were actually prep teammates as juniors at Chicago De La Salle High School before Schilling transferred to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his senior season. Ellis III provides a solid all-around presence on the perimeter, while Schilling provides great strength and quickness in the post. Both Ellis III and Schilling were added during the spring signing period in 2013.
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.
THE BOOK ON Tom Izzo
In his 19th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 439-178 (.712), and 209-95 (.688) in the Big Ten, as the coach of the Michigan State basketball program. He ranks as the winningest coach in Michigan State history, having passed his mentor Jud Heathcote with his 341st career victory on Nov. 28, 2009. In his 18 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has captured eight National Coach of the Year awards, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001 and 2012. In 1999, Izzo was named National Coach of the year by Basketball Times, while earning similar honors from The Associated Press, Basketball News and the USBWA in '98. He also earned National Coach of the Year accolades from CBSSports.com in 2012. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012.
Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .688 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (.706), and former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.720), Izzo (.712), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 209 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.
Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 18 seasons, Tom Izzo won 439 games, ranking fourth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 18 years.
Izzo's Coaching Tree
Five current Division I head coaches all served as assistants to Tom Izzo, including Tom Crean (Indiana), Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech), Stan Heath (South Florida), Mark Montgomery (Northern Illinois) and Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston). Mike Garland served as head coach at Cleveland State for three seasons and Stan Joplin, an assistant during Izzo's first season, spent 12 seasons as head coach at Toledo. Jim Boylen was head coach at Utah for four years.