Nov. 26, 2011
The Opening Tip
Michigan State travels to Eastern Michigan for its first true road game of the season. This is the final game of the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational for MSU, having won three straight at home. Eastern Michigan is also playing its final game in the Invitational, having lost at Texas Southern, but beating UALR at home and IUPUI on the road. Michigan State is making its first trip to Ypsilanti since Dec. 17, 1987.
The Starting Five
1. About The Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational
The Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational is a six-team, 13-day, partial round-robin, featuring Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, IUPUI, Milwaukee, Texas Southern and UALR. The Spartans will not play IUPUI, host Texas Southern (Nov. 18), UALR (Nov. 20) and Milwaukee (Nov. 23) and travel to Eastern Michigan (Nov. 27).
2. Getting To The Foul Line
The Spartans have done an excellent job getting to the foul line in the last two games, averaging 38.5 attempts vs. UALR (25-of-41) and Milwaukee (22-of-36). MSU, however, has struggled to make the most of those opportunities, hitting just 61.0 percent from the foul line. On the season, MSU is averaging 24.8 free throw attempts and shooting 62.9 percent.
3. Strong Spartan Defense
Michigan State's defensive effort has been impressive in the first month of the season. The Spartans are allowing just 56.8 points on .370 shooting, including .299 from 3-point range. Those numbers are especially impressive when you consider MSU has played No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke. The Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense and third in both field-goal percentage defense and 3-point field-goal percentage defense. During MSU's 3-game win streak, the Spartans are allowing just 47.7 points on .323 shooting, including .234 from 3-point range.
4. Too Many Turnovers
One area of concern for the Spartans has been the turnovers through the first five games. MSU is committing 17.2 per game, while forcing an equal 17.2 by its opponents. The Spartans, however, are averaging 18.2 points per game off opponent turnovers, compared to 15.0 points by opponents off MSU turnovers.
5. What A Difference A Year Makes
Through the first five games of the season, Derrick Nix is averaging 5.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 16.8 minutes per contest. Following his 11-point effort in 23 minutes vs. Milwaukee, Coach Tom Izzo called him one of his most reliable players. That's a contrast to last season when Nix averaged just 1.0 points and 2.5 rebounds, playing in just two of the team's first five games. Last year during the Thanksgiving week, Nix did not accompany the team to the Maui Invitational.
MSU vs. EMU Notes
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Eastern Michigan, 27-3, including an 8-2 advantage in games played in Ypsilanti. The Spartans have won five straight games in the series. Tom Izzo is 3-0 in his career against Eastern Michigan. The two teams first played on March 3, 1900. Last year at Breslin Center, MSU defeated EMU, 96-66, in the season opener as six Spartans scored in double figures. Brandon Bowdry led all scorers with 32 points for EMU.
Rob Murphy (Central State University, '96) is 4-1 in his first season as a collegiate head coach. Previously, Murphy was an assistant at Syracuse for seven seasons and at Kent State for two years. Before becoming a collegiate assistant, Murphy was head coach at Detroit Crockett Technical High School for three seasons, leading Crockett to the Class B State Championship in 2001.
Eastern Michigan is led in scoring by senior guard Darrell Lampley (15.0 ppg). He was named MAC West Division Player of the Week on Nov. 21 after averaging 17.3 points in three games, including a career-best 21 vs. UALR ... EMU's only loss on the season was a 66-49 defeat at Texas Southern ... EMU's defense has been strong, allowing opponents to shoot just 39.7 percent from the field, including 28.4 percent from 3-point range.
Gm. 5 Recap Michigan State 68 - Milwaukee 55
The first half was tightly contested as neither team could create any early separation, with seven ties and four lead changes in the games first 16 minutes. Michigan State threatened to pull away right before the half, taking a 34-27 lead with 1:12 left, but Milwaukee answered with a 3-pointer and the Spartans held a narrow 34-30 advantage at the break. MSU stormed out of the locker room in the second half, opening on a 9-0 run. Milwaukee pulled within eight points on two occasions, but could never get any closer. The Spartan lead remained in double figures for the final 12:30 of the contest.
MSU vs. Milwaukee Notes
* Draymond Green scored a season-high 18 points.
* The Spartan defense held Milwaukee to .200 shooting from 3-point range, allowing just five makes. The Panthers entered the game averaging 7 makes per contest on .341 shooting.
* Derrick Nix scored a season-high 11 points in a career-high tying 23 minutes. Nix scored in double figures for just the third time in his career and the first time since Feb. 2, 2011 (vs. Iowa).
* With his 11 points, Nix became the eighth different Spartan to score in double figures this season.
MSU Basketball Notes
Six of the 11 players in the Spartan playing group are seeing their first action in a Michigan State uniform (Russell Byrd, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna, Brandan Kearney, Travis Trice, Brandon Wood). The six are averaging 41.5 percent of the scoring and 43.1 percent of the minutes. 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 for MSU. As another point of comparison, Draymond Green has more career points at MSU (978) than all of his teammates combined (878).
In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of 31.6-20.4, out-scoring four of its five opponents. The Spartans even out-scored No. 1 North Carolina in the paint, 34-32, despite the Tar Heels having what some consider to be the premier frontline in the country.
Four different Spartans have led Michigan State in scoring through the first five games of the season. Draymond Green (13 vs. UNC, 18 vs. Milwaukee), Keith Appling (22 vs. Duke), Branden Dawson (13 vs. Texas Southern) and Austin Thornton (13 vs. UALR) have each paced MSU. Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, Travis Trice and Brandon Wood also have scored in double figures at least once this season, making eight different players to score 10 or more in a game.
It's All About Boardwork
After leading the nation in rebounding margin in both 2009 (+9.3) and 2010 (+8.6), Michigan State ranked 48th in the nation last season at +4.0. The Spartans have shown a better effort in 2011-12, out-rebounding all five opponents by a +9.4 margin, including two by more than 10 (+15 vs. North Carolina, +21 vs. Texas Southern). The Spartans have led the nation in rebounding margin in four of the last 12 seasons, ranking in the top 10 seven times and the top 25 on 10 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in 11 of the last 14 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 421 of 549 opponents (.767), posting a 331-90 (.786) mark in those games.
MSU In November
Michigan State has an all-time record of 93-28 in games played in the month of November. This includes a 66-3 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 44-0 all-time at home in November.
Green Approaches 1,000
Draymond Green has scored 978 career points, 22 points shy of becoming the 42nd player in MSU history to reach the 1,000 point mark for his career. With 757 rebounds, he also has a shot at becoming just the fourth player in MSU history with 1,000 career boards, and the third player with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, joining Greg Kelser and Johnny Green. Given that the Spartans play 31 regular season games, at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament and possibly at least postseason game, Green would need to average 9.03 rebounds to reach 1,000 for his career.
Green Up For Senior CLASS Award
Draymond Green is one of 30 male candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The candidate poll will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the season.
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 (including 2011-12 - through Nov. 25), the year of Michigan State's first of 14 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 148 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 (143), Connecticut (138), Kentucky (137) and Duke (135).
Toughest Start Ever
Michigan State opens the season with the toughest start in the nation with back-to-back neutral-site contests vs. No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke. 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.
Big Ten Contenders
Michigan State was picked third by a panel of media in the 2011-12 Big Ten preseason poll. Ohio State and Wisconsin were picked to finish first and second, respectively. Draymond Green found a spot on the preseason all-conference team, joining Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Purdue's Robbie Hummel, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor.
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 and the Naismith Award Watch 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'll 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: Branden 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.
In The Rankings
Seven different Spartan opponents are ranked in at least one of the two polls, including North Carolina (1 AP/1 USA Today), Ohio State (3/3), Duke (6/6), Wisconsin (11/11), Michigan (15/15), Gonzaga (19/19) and Florida State (22/20). MSU is receiving votes in both preseason polls.
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.
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.
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.
Michigan State won its two exhibition games against Ferris State (85-58) and Hillsdale (80-58) by an average margin of 24.5 points, averaging 82.5 points per contest. The Spartans were led by Draymond Green, who paced MSU in scoring (13.0 ppg) and ranked second in rebounding (7.5 rpg). Branden Dawson and Derrick Nix each averaged 12.5 ppg, as Dawson led the Spartans with 15 points and nine boards against Ferris State. Adreian Payne started the second exhibition vs. Hillsdale and posted a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Payne averaged a team-best 8.0 boards in the two games.
The Book On Tom Izzo
In his 17th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 386-163 (.703), and 183-85 (.683) 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 16 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has won National Coach of the Year honors four times, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001. 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 earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998 and 2009.
Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .683 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks fourth all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700) and former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.730), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Lambert (.709) and Izzo (.703). With 183 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.
Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 16 seasons, Tom Izzo won 383 games, ranking sixth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 16 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 (Tulsa). 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.