Nov. 11, 2013
THE OPENING TIP
No. 2 Michigan State faces No. 1 Kentucky in the third edition of the Champions Classic. This is the first meeting of No. 1 and No. 2 on the hardwood since 2008, and the earliest meeting ever between the top-two ranked squads. MSU tuned up for the contest with a dominating 98-56 victory over McNeese State Friday.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Accustomed To The Big Stage
Not only has Michigan State played more ranked teams than any other Final Four participant since 1998 (176), they are used to playing in big games early. Consider that in the last three seasons, MSU will have played Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina in the first two games of the season, with all those games being played away from East Lansing.
2. Champions Classic
Michigan State is 1-1 in the first two years of the Champions Classic. The Spartans defeated No. 7 Kansas, 67-64, last season in Atlanta behind 19 points from Keith Appling and 18 points from Gary Harris. Appling hit a 3-pointer with 1:36 to go up by four points. KU responded with a three-point play, but Appling converted on an acrobatic driving layup with 14 seconds remaining to take a 67-64 lead. In the inaugural classic, Duke defeated MSU, 74-69, in New York's Madison Square Garden. Appling led MSU with 22 points, and Adreian Payne grabbed 12 rebounds.
3. Spartan Returners In Champions Classic
Keith Appling leads all participants in the 2013 Champions Classic in career scoring in the event (41 points - 20.5 ppg). Among players who played in both of the previous seasons of the event, only Duke's Seth Curry (21.5 ppg) had a higher scoring average. In two games, Appling is shooting 14-of-19 from the field, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Adreian Payne is the event's all-time leading rebounder with 20 boards (10.0 rpg). His 12 rebounds vs. Duke in 2011 is tied for the event's single game mark with Kansas' Thomas Robinson (12 vs. Kentucky, 2011). Branden Dawson joins Appling and Payne as the only other participants in this year's event (from any team) with two career starts, averaging 10.5 points, shooting 9-of-12 from the field.
4. MSU At The United Center
Michigan State owns a 10-7 record in the United Center. Outside of the Big Ten Tournament, where MSU is 9-6, the Spartans played twice at the United Center for the Great Eight, losing to Duke, 73-67, in 1998 and defeating Kansas, 66-54, in 1999.
5. #1 vs. #2
The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Associated Press Top 25 have previously met 39 times (according to collegepollarchive.com), with the No. 1 team posting a 20-19 record. The top two teams in the poll have not met since Feb. 23, 2008 (No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 Tennessee). The No. 2 ranked team has won the last two meetings and six of the last eight. Prior to this meeting, the earliest meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 was Nov. 29, 1975 (No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 2 UCLA). It's also worth noting that this is the first time since the 2008 National Semifinals that four of the top five teams in the nation will play in the same venue on the same day.
MSU VS. KENTUCKY NOTES
John Calipari (Clarion, '83) is 528-164 in 22 seasons as a collegiate head coach, including 125-26 in five seasons at Kentucky. He arrived in Lexington in 2009, following nine seasons at Memphis, where he posted a 214-68 record. Prior to his stint with the Tigers, Calipari coached 2-plus seasons in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. His first head coaching job came at UMass, where he posted a 189-70 mark in eight seasons. He has appeared in four Final Fours and captured the 2012 NCAA Championship with Kentucky. Tom Izzo is 0-1 in his career against John Calipari.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 12-10. The Spartans and Wildcats have split the four neutral-site meetings. MSU is 4-2 against Kentucky under Tom Izzo, although this game marks the first contest against a John Calipari-coached Kentucky team. In the last meeting, MSU defeated UK, 94-88, in double overtime, in the 2005 Elite Eight. The season before that, Michigan State and Kentucky played in front of a world-record crowd of 78,129 at Detroit's Ford Field on Dec. 13, 2003.
Kentucky enters the season ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches' polls ... Freshman Julius Randle was the preseason pick for Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference, and joins MSU's Gary Harris and Adreian Payne on the 15-player preseason watch list for the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy ... Randle is joined by fellow freshmen Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Young among 10 first-year players on the 10-player watch list for the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year award ... UK's roster features eight high school All-Americans, including seven in this year's freshman class ... Sophomore Alex Poythress is Kentucky's leading returning scorer, having averaged 11.2 points last season, earning SEC All-Freshman honors, as did sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, UK's leading returning rebounder, averaging 6.2 boards last season ... Kentucky is the national leader in total wins with 2,113.
The Last Meeting
Michigan State defeated Kentucky, 94-88, in double overtime in the Elite Eight of the 2005 NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas. Kentucky's Patrick Sparks forced the first overtime when his buzzer-beater 3-pointer hung on the rim before falling in. MSU trailed 79-75 in the first overtime, and grabbed five straight offensive rebounds before hitting a 3-pointer. In the second overtime, MSU scored the first five points and shot 8-of-8 from the foul line in the final 1:46. Shannon Brown led all scorers with 24 points, earning Most Outstanding Player honors of the Austin Regional, while Paul Davis (15 pts., 11 reb.) and Maurice Ager (21 pts., 8 reb.) made the All-Region Team. Randolph Morris led Kentucky with 20 points. The victory completed a weekend that saw Michigan State become the first school to defeat Duke and Kentucky in the same NCAA Tournament.
GM. 1 RECAP MICHIGAN STATE 98 - MCNEESE STATE 56
Michigan State defeated McNeese State, 98-56, in the season opener for both teams. The Cowboys took a 13-12 lead on a 3-pointer at the 14:25 mark of the first half. MSU responded with a 10-0 run over the next 1:50 and was never threatened after that, outscoring McNeese State, 40-12 to close the first half. The Spartans shot 52.6 percent from the field and 50.0 percent (8-of-16) from 3-point range in the first half, while holding the Cowboys to 26.3 percent shooting. Leading 52-25 at the half, MSU scored the second half's first 11 points and never led by fewer than 35 points after that, pushing the lead out to as many as 47 points late in the contest. For the game, MSU shot 51.9 percent from the field, while holding its opponent to 27.4 percent.
MSU VS. MCNEESE STATE NOTES
* MSU improved to 91-24 all-time in openers, and 97-18 all-time in home openers, including 80-11 in season openers at home.
* Tom Izzo improved to 19-0 in home openers.
* It was the first game since Dec. 19, 2000 vs. Seton Hall that three Spartans recorded double-figure rebounds (Andre Hutson-13, Aloysius Anagonye-12, Charlie Bell-11)
* It was the first game since Dec. 15, 1988 vs. Detroit that three players had a double-double in the same game (Ken Redfield - 22 pts, 10 reb; Steve Smith - 23 pts, 12 reb; Jesse Hall - 14pts, 11 reb)
* MSU recorded its largest margin of victory in a season opener since Nov. 22, 1999 when it posted a 78-33 win over Toledo. It was the seventh largest margin of victory all-time in a season-opener.
* MSU's 32 assists tied the fourth most all-time in a single game.
* MSU used 18 offensive rebounds to outscore McNeese State 23-3 in second-chance points.
* MSU's 66 rebounds set a Breslin Center record, outrebounding McNeese State, 66-29.
* Gary Harris posted his first career double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds). The 10 rebounds were a career high as were his six assists.
* Travis Trice dished out a career-high eight assists.
MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
MSU Vs. Number One
Michigan State is 3-19 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25, although the Spartans have won two of their last six against No. 1. MSU defeated No. 1 Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA Championship game, No. 1 Wisconsin on Feb. 20, 2007 in East Lansing, and No. 1 Louisville in the 2009 NCAA Elite Eight.
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).
MSU In November
Michigan State has an all-time record of 101-30 in games played in the month of November. This includes a 72-3 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 50-0 all-time at home in November.
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.
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.
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. MSU opened the season by holding McNeese State to 27.4 percent shooting.
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. He opened the season by recording his first career double-double with 20 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing out a career-high six assists.
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.
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 478 of 618 opponents (.773), posting a 378-100 (.791) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. In the season opener, MSU out-rebounded McNeese State by a +37 margin (66-29).
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. In three games, including the exhibition contests, MSU is averaging 94.0 points per game. In the season opener, MSU held a 40-12 edge in fast break points.
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. MSU hit 10-of-26 3-pointers (38.5 percent) in the season opener vs. McNeese State, as Harris connected on 4-of-10 and Trice hit 3-of-6.
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 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 1,129 career points, he ranks 36th in MSU career scoring, 17 points behind Pete Gent (1,146 points) and 26 behind Lindsay Hairston (1,155 points). With 733 points, Adreian Payne is on pace to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.
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.
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 the season opener, along with the two exhibition games, totaling six points, three rebounds and three blocks against McNeese State. But redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling are also in contention for the spot. In the opener, the trio combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds.
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 440-178 (.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 (.721), 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.