Nov. 27, 2013
THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State is back at home after capturing the 2013 Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic Championship last weekend. In its only game of the week, MSU will host Mount St. Mary's. It's the second-ever meeting between the Spartans and Moutaineers with the first coming in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. MSU At No. 1
Michigan State is currently No. 1 in both the Associated Press and the USA Today Coaches Polls for the second straight week. Although the Spartans have been ranked in the Top 10 in 15 of Tom Izzo's 19 seasons, and the Top 5 in 11 seasons, this is just the second time under Coach Izzo, and just the third time in school history that MSU has held the top spot in the AP Top 25. This is the sixth week in school history that MSU will be ranked No. 1. The Spartans were No. 1 for two weeks during the National Championship season of 1978-79, holding the top spot on Jan. 3 and Jan. 9. In 2000-01, MSU reached the top spot on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 (Dates according to NCAA Record Book). The Spartans have an all-time record of 8-3 at No. 1, including 3-0 this season.
2. Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 21.0 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking second in the nation. With 126 assists on 186 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 67.7 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the country in assists per game and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0), pacing the Big Ten in both categories (NCAA stats through Nov. 24). Keith Appling is second in the conference in assists (5.7 apg) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.4). Five Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (3.5 apg), Gary Harris (2.8 apg), Branden Dawson (2.7 apg) and Travis Trice (2.7 apg) join Appling.
3. MSU In November
Michigan State has an all-time record of 106-30 in games played in the month of November. This includes a 74-3 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 52-0 all-time at home in November.
4. Spartan Spurtability
MSU's dynamic offense has shown the ability to score points in bunches. During the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn, the Spartans closed the first half on both games with large runs. Against Virginia Tech, MSU had a 15-3 run over the final 4:18. The next day, MSU closed the Oklahoma first half on a 34-9 run over the final 10:38, including a 13-0 spurt over the final 4:36. MSU has also shown the ability to start with a burst, opening the Kentucky game with a 10-0 run, and a 9-0 run vs. Columbia.
5. Spartans At The Charity Stripe
Michigan State is shooting .728 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Appling-31 attempts, .742; Payne-26 attempts, .808, Harris-24 attempts, .875) are each shooting better than 74 percent from the foul line.
MSU VS. MOUNT ST. MARY'S NOTES
Jamion Christian (Mount St. Mary's, 2004) is 20-19 in his second season at Mount St. Mary's. He is the fifth-youngest coach in NCAA Division I at 30 years old. After going 18-14 last season, Christian is looking to become just the fourth head coach in Mount history to have a winning record in each of his first two seasons. Prior to becoming head coach at Mount St. Mary's, Christian spent one season as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth. His coaching career also includes stops as Emory & Henry, Bucknell, and William & Mary. Last season, he was a finalist for both the Ben Jobe Award and the Joe B. Hall Award in 2013. The Ben Jobe Award is presented annually to the top minority coach in division I men's basketball., while the Joe B. Hall Award goes to the top first-year coach in Division I college basketball.
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Mount St. Mary's, 1-0, having defeated the Mountaineers, 76-53, on March 12, 1999, in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Tournament. A.J. Granger led MSU with 15 points and Antonio Smith added 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Spartans started their drive to the Final Four.
About Mount St. Mary's
Mount St. Mary's will be playing its second game against a No. 1-ranked team, having lost to North Carolina, 113-74, in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament ... The Mount entered the week (prior to Bucknell game) ranked sixth in the nation with 165 3-point attempts and 22nd with 50 made 3-pointers ... 46.3 percent of its field-goal attempts are 3-point attempts ... Five different players are averaging more than one made 3-pointer per contest ... The Mountaineers are led by senior point guard Julian Norfleet at 18.7 ppg; Norfleet has started 99 of 100 career games played.
GM. 6 RECAP MICHIGAN STATE 87 - OKLAHOMA 76
Michigan State got off to a slow start, as Oklahoma held a 22-11 lead just nine minutes into the contest. Keith Appling responded with a corner 3-pointer, and Gary Harris followed with a 3-pointer of his own to spark a Spartan run, as MSU would close the half on a 34-9 run. With 7:06 remaining in the first half, the Spartans trailed 29-26, but would score 19 of the half's final 21 points, including a closing 13-0 run over the final 4:36, capped by a Denzel Valentine 3-pointer in the half's final seconds. MSU opened the second half in much the same fashion it closed the first, pushing its advantage up to 18 points at 51-33. However, Appling quickly picked up his second and third fouls and was forced to the bench, followed by Branden Dawson picking up a third foul, and Harris going to the bench with leg cramps. With those three starters on the bench, Oklahoma cut the lead to four points with 12:16 remaining. That's when Appling re-entered the game and took over, scoring seven straight for MSU. Oklahoma twice more pulled within four points in the final four minutes, but the Spartans kept the Sooners at bay by making eight of 11 free throws in the final 3:04.
MSU VS. OKLAHOMA NOTES
* Michigan State captured its first regular-season neutral-site tournament since capturing the Pearl Harbor Classic in December 1998.
* Keith Appling scored a career-high 27 points, including 20 in the second half, and 18 in the final 10:01. Appling also attempted a career-high 14 free throws.
* Appling was named Coaches Vs. Cancer Tournament MVP, while Adreian Payne earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
* Branden Dawson recorded his third double-double of the season, and his second in as many games.
* Oklahoma made 10 of its first 12 shots in jumping to a 22-11 lead, but made just three of its next 16 as MSU closed the stanza on a 34-9 run over the final 10:38.
* The first half had a combined 16 free throws (MSU-13, OU-3) while the second half had 50 (MSU-23, OU-27).
MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
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. Through six games, MSU is averaging 83.8 points per game, including 18.7 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.
Payne's Senior Season
After opting to bypass the NBA Draft and return to Michigan State, Adreian Payne is determined to make the most of his senior season. A preseason first-team All-American as selected by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, and one of 15 players on the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Payne ranks second on the team in both scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). He's posted a double-double in three games this season and nine of the last 17 dating back to last season. Against Virginia Tech, he scored a career-high 29 points.
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 finished in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in assists in each of the last two seasons, but he spoke this offseason about becoming better at running his team, gaining praise from Coach Izzo for his development. He's averaging a career-best 5.7 assists per game and owns a 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio, ranking in the Top three in the Big Ten in both categories. In a win over No. 1 Kentucky, Appling dished out eight assists, in addition to his 22 points and eight rebounds. Coach Izzo described Appling's 25-point, seven-assist effort vs. Portland "one of the greatest point guard performances in many, many, many years when you look at what he shot and the decisions he made. He did just an unbelievable job defensively ... He was worth the price of admission." Most recently, he paced MSU with a career-high 27 points vs. Oklahoma, earning Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic MVP honors.
Michigan State is 330-46 (.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 256-31 (.892) at Breslin, including a 130-22 (.855) conference record. MSU has won 37 of the last 39 games at Breslin. The Spartans have won 72 of the last 73 non-conference home games, and 73 straight games against unranked non-conference opponents at Breslin.
Nation's Best Backcourt
With Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson in the starting lineup and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine coming off the bench, Michigan State stakes a strong claim for having the nation's best backcourt. All five rank among MSU's top six in scoring, while Appling, Harris, Dawson and Trice have each scored 20 or more points at least once during their career. Not only are they dynamic offensively, they also can provide lockdown defense.
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's first six opponents are shooting .394 from the floor, including .326 from 3-point range.
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 177 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 (160), Kentucky (152), Duke (152) and Connecticut (143).
Dawson's Energy On Display
Branden Dawson didn't miss a game last season despite tearing his ACL at the end of his freshman year, and yet he wasn't functioning at 100 percent. Early indications in 2013-14 are that Dawson is a much more active player, exhibiting the rare combination of strength and athleticism that rank him among the Big Ten's elite. He is currently averaging a team-best 9.7 rebounds, leading the team in five of six games, and 11.0 points. His tip-in with five seconds remaining sealed the win over No. 1 Kentucky. Dawson is tied with Adreian Payne for the team lead with three double-doubles.
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. Six conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 1 Michigan State, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 20 Michigan, No. 23 Iowa and No. 25 Indiana. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.
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. He followed that effort with another 20-point contest against No. 1 Kentucky. He leads the Spartans in scoring, averaging 17.7 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in three of six games.
MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are currently ranked No. 1 in both the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press Top 25. Seven Spartan opponents are also ranked in at least one of the polls, including Kentucky (3 AP/4 USA Today), Ohio State (7/6), Wisconsin (10/11), North Carolina (16/16), Michigan (22/20), Iowa (23/23), and Indiana (-/25).
Michigan State is shooting .372 from 3-point range (48-of-129). Four Spartans (Gary Harris-13, Keith Appling-12, Adreian Payne-8, Travis Trice-8) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in three of six games, after doing it just once last season. 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.
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 480 of 623 opponents (.770), posting a 380-100 (.792) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +4.8 rebounding margin, but has been out-rebounded in three of six contests.
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.
Wooden And Naismith Award Watch Lists
Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne have each earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. The Spartans are one of four schools to have at least three players on the list. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 10 players on the list of 50. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the midseason list and the official voting ballot, which will consist of approximately 20 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA. The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation's top 10 players, will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. Harris and Payne have also been named to the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List.
Cousy Award Watch List
Senior Keith Appling is one of 47 players on the watch list of candidates for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. The annual honor, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guards in men's college basketball. This watch list of candidates will be narrowed down to a final 20 in early February, then final five by early March. The Cousy Award winner will be
presented the award on Championship Monday in Dallas at the Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 Announcement and Press Conference.
Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine are not normally in the starting lineup, but in the eyes of Coach Izzo, they might as well be. Izzo has regularly referred to the duo as "super subs." Valentine ranks fifth on the team in both scoring (7.2 ppg) and minutes (23.0 mpg), while Trice ranks sixth in scoring (6.3 ppg) and minutes (20.5 mpg). Valentine (3.5 apg) is second in assists, while Trice (2.7 apg) is tied for fourth. Both players also shoot better than 35 percent from 3-point range.
Payne's Block Party
Senior Adreian Payne ranks second in Michigan State history with 122 career blocks, just 12 behind MSU career leader Drew Naymick (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.
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. In total, the Spartans will face 15 teams that competed in postseason play, playing 19 of 31 regular-season games against postseason participants.
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 1,219 career points, he ranks 27th in MSU career scoring, 23 points behind Stan Washington (1,242 points) and 56 behind Quinton Brooks (1,275 points). With 826 points, Adreian Payne is on pace to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.
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 has been the starter in five of the first six games. But redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling are also in contention for the spot. The trio is averaging a combined 5.0 points and 6.3 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 445-178 (.714), 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 (.724), Izzo (.714), 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.