Dec. 30, 2012
THE OPENING TIP
Michigan State opens Big Ten play on the road against Minnesota. The Spartans and Gophers are two of the six conference teams currently ranked in the Top 25. This is the third New Year's Eve meeting between Michigan State and Minnesota in the last five years, having previously met in 2008 and 2010.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Spartan Defense
The 2011-12 season was one of Michigan State's best defensive efforts on record. The Spartans ranked second in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot .379 from the field, the lowest percentage by Spartan opponents since 1957-58 (.343). In addition, MSU ranked No. 15 in the nation in scoring defense (59.3 ppg) and 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.299). This season, MSU is allowing opponents to shoot a Big Ten-low .353 from the field, including .306 from 3-point range. The Spartans have held their last six opponents to .318 shooting, including .290 from 3-point range. MSU also paces the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 56.1 points per contest.
2. Big Ten Openers
In its 62 seasons playing basketball in the Big Ten Conference, Michigan State has compiled a 29-33 record in Big Ten openers, including a 16-9 record at home. Tom Izzo is 11-6 in Big Ten openers, including 4-6 on the road. This is the seventh time in the last 10 seasons that MSU has opened conference play on the road. This is the fourth time in the last six seasons that the Spartans have opened against Minnesota.
3. It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 13 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 eight times and the Top 25 on 11 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding in 12 of the last 15 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 458 of 594 opponents (.771), posting a 364-94 (.795) mark in those games. The Spartans have out-rebounded all 13 opponents this season, posting a +10.2 margin, including averaging 12.0 offensive rebounds per game.
4. Big Ten Success
Michigan State has captured at least a share of the Big Ten Championship in three of the last four seasons. After winning the title outright in 2009, the Spartans shared the conference crown in 2010 and 2012. Last season, MSU also added a Big Ten Tournament title to its resume. During Tom Izzo's tenure, the Spartans have won seven regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.
5. Big Ten Success, Part II
Michigan State has won 13 Big Ten Championships, including three of the last four, since joining the league prior to the 1950-51 season. The Spartans' first ever league game was at Northwestern, where MSU claimed a 67-62 victory on Jan. 6, 1951. All-time, MSU is 550-450 (.552) in league play, including 196-90 (.685) under Tom Izzo, who ranks sixth in league history with 196 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to seven of its 13 league crowns. Since Izzo's first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 196-90, 16 games better than second-place Wisconsin (180-106).
MSU VS. MINNESOTA NOTES
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Minnesota, 63-57. The Golden Gophers, however, own a 35-23 advantage in Minneapolis. The Spartans have won 12 of the last 13, 17 of the last 19, and 22 of the last 26 meetings. Tom Izzo has a 25-8 all-time record against the Golden Gophers.
Orlando "Tubby" Smith (High Point, '73) is 502-214 in his 22nd season as a collegiate head coach, including 115-69 in his sixth season with Minnesota. Prior to his arrival in Minneapolis, he spent 10 seasons as head coach at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to the 1998 NCAA Championship. His head coaching career also includes a two-year stint at Georgia and four seasons at Tulsa. With a win over USC on Dec. 8, Smith became the 19th current active Division I coach to reach the 500-win plateau.
The Last Meeting
Michigan State defeated Minnesota, 66-61, on Feb. 22, 2012, in Minneapolis. Trailing 58-52 with 3:23 left, MSU went on a 12-0 run, outscoring the Gophers 14-3 over the final 3:23. During the closing spurt, MSU's defense forced four Minnesota turnovers, while MSU scored on each of its last seven possessions, including shooting 8-of-8 from the foul line. In fact, the Spartans were 15-of-16 from the foul line over the game's final 7:47. Draymond Green led MSU with 17 points, while Keith Appling and Brandon Wood each added 13, as Appling scored six in the game's final minute. Austin Hollins scored 17 points to pace Minnesota.
Happy New Year
This is the third time in the last five seasons that Michigan State and Minnesota have met on New Year's Eve. In 2008, MSU defeated Minnesota, 70-58, in Williams Arena. In 2010, the Spartans were a 71-62 victor in East Lansing. This is MSU's fourth game on New Year's Eve in the last five seasons, having won at Nebraska last season, 68-55.
Golden Gopher Notes
Minnesota is among the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten, out-rebounding opponents by a +10.2 margin, ranking third in the conference ... The Gophers grab a Big Ten-best 48.9 percent of their misses on the offensive glass, grabbing 16.7 offensive rebounds per contest ... Minnesota paces the Big Ten with 6.5 blocks per contest ... Four different Gophers average double figures in scoring ... Ten different Gophers average more than 10 minutes per game, with no single player averaging more than 29 minutes per contest.
GM. 13 RECAP MICHIGAN STATE 67 - TEXAS 56
Michigan State used a dominating second half to defeat Texas, 67-56, on Dec. 22. The Spartans got off to a quick start and held a 12-4 lead less than eight minutes into the contest, but a 7-0 Texas run brought the Longhorns back in the game over the next 90 seconds. UT was strong over the final minutes of the first half, extending its lead to seven points on two occasions, and holding a 33-28 lead at the break. The second half proved to be an entirely different story as the Spartans opened on an 8-0 spurt and never trailed after that. Leading 41-40 at the 14:22 mark, MSU used a 13-4 spurt to take a 54-44 lead. Still, the Longhorns kept battling and a 10-2 run pulled them back with two points at 56-54 with 4:44 remaining. A 5-0 run, however, gave the Spartans some breathing room, as MSU allowed just two points in the game's final 4:43.
MSU VS. TEXAS NOTES
* Derrick Nix recorded career highs in points (25), free throws (11), steals (4) and minutes played (32), adding 11 rebounds for his third career double-double and his second in the last three games.
* Michigan State shot 44.7 percent from the field, a season-high for a Texas opponent, as the previous high against the Longhorns was 41.3 percent.
* The Spartans finished undefeated at home in non-conference play for a second-straight season.
* Michigan State recorded 10 steals, compared to just three for Texas.
* The Spartans shot 0-of-7 from 3-point range in the first half, but made 2-of-4 attempts in the second half.
* Gary Harris scored nine points, marking the first game of his Spartan career in which he played more than one minute and did not score in double figures.
* Branden Dawson matched his season high with 10 rebounds.
* After being outscored 33-28 in the first half, MSU outscored Texas, 39-23, in the second half.
MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Another Izzo Milestone
Michigan State's win vs. Texas was victory No. 423 for Tom Izzo as Spartan head coach, equaling Lou Henson (423 wins; 1975-96) for the third most wins as a Big Ten head coach, trailing only Bob Knight (662; 1971-2000) and Gene Keady (512; 1980-2005).
Four different Spartans have posted a double-double this season. Adreian Payne leads the way with three (Nicholls State, Loyola, Tuskegee). Derrick Nix (Tuskegee and Texas) has two, while Branden Dawson (Connecticut) and Denzel Valentine (Oakland) each have one.
Too Many Turnovers
One early area of concern for Michigan State is the number of turnovers, as the Spartans are averaging 15.6 per game, including four games with 19 or more. MSU's primary ballhandler, Keith Appling, is averaging just 2.5 per contest, posting a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
There's An App For That
Keith Appling leads the Spartans in scoring (14.9 ppg - 9th Big Ten) and assists (4.1 apg - 6th Big Ten), having led MSU in scoring in eight of 13 games, and scoring 20 or more points three times. One area where Appling has improved over last season is his outside shooting, as he is shooting .375 (15-of-40) from 3-point range, compared to .250 (24-of-96) in 2011-12. In addition, he's establishing himself as one of the premier defenders in the nation. His play has not gone unnoticed by his head coach, as Tom Izzo remarked "I'm not an easy guy to please. But I'm really excited for him and proud of him for what he's doing right now in an incredible way."
Spartans Shooting Better
Michigan State got off to a cold shooting start this season, failing to shoot better than 39 percent in either half in the opener against Connecticut. In the 24 halves of basketball that have followed, the Spartans have shot 50 percent or better 13 times. Through 13 games, MSU is shooting .478 from the field, ranking third in the Big Ten.
Harris' Immediate Impact
Gary Harris opened his Spartan career by becoming just the third freshman in MSU history to score in double figures in each of his first three games. He suffered a shoulder sprain in the first defensive possession of the game against Boise State, and missed the two games following that one. He ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per contest, and if you only consider games in which he played more than a minute, he's averaging 13.6 ppg. He is a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, earning the honor on Nov. 19 and Dec. 10.
Trice Is Back
Travis Trice played 12 minutes at Miami, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. It was the first action for the reserve point guard since suffering a concussion and broken nose in the second half of MSU's season-opener against Connecticut in Germany. In his seven games back, he's averaging 5.9 points, while shooting .440 (11-of-25) from 3-point range. His return will take some of the ball-handling duties off Keith Appling's shoulders. In the five games that Trice missed, Appling was forced to play 36.4 minutes per contest.
On March 4, 2012, Branden Dawson suffered a season-ending torn left ACL. With no swelling, he was able to have surgery two days later, putting him ahead of schedule from the beginning. The quick healing continued through the summer, and Dawson was a full participant when practice opened in mid-October. He currently ranks third on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg), third in rebounding (6.2 rpg), and second in minutes played (26.5 mpg), despite being just over nine months removed from surgery. Still, it's tough to make up for missing the entire summer both in terms of conditioning and skill development.
A look at the Big Ten stats shows that junior center Adreian Payne is one of the premier big men in the Big Ten. Payne ranks third in the conference in rebounding (7.5 rpg), fourth in field-goal percentage (.606) and tied for seventh in blocks (1.4 bpg). He also ranks fifth on the Spartans in scoring at 8.7 points per contest. The main thing limiting Payne's production is foul trouble, as he's played 20 minutes or more in just five games. In six games, Payne picked up two first-half fouls, limiting his playing time. He's recorded three double-doubles this season, each one of them in 22 minutes or less.
Nix Attacks The Glass
Derrick Nix ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 7.8 caroms per contest. Nix grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in his Spartan debut three seasons ago, but did not record double figures in rebounds again until the 2012-13 season opener when he collected 11 boards against Connecticut. He has four double-figure rebounding games this season, and has recorded double-doubles in two of his last three games. They were his first double-doubles since his Spartan debut. Following a career-high 25-point, 11-rebound effort against Texas, he was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Dec. 24.
Searching For A Rotation
Michigan State has used four different starting lineups this year, as the Spartans work with different combinations, although the same starting lineup has been used for the last six contests. Nine players are averaging more than 11 minutes per game, and 11 are averaging five minutes or more. Finding a rotation is a chore for the Spartan coaching staff that's been made even more difficult due to injuries to Travis Trice, Matt Costello and Gary Harris. In fact, the game at Miami was the first game in which all 11 scholarship players saw action, and even then, Trice and Harris were just coming off injuries.
In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of +13.9 (36.2-22.3), out-scoring 11 of its 13 opponents. At times, MSU has dominated the paint, including out-scoring Texas Southern (46-10), Oakland (40-16), Miami (30-14), Nicholls State (52-20), Tuskegee (42-26), Bowling Green (42-24), and Texas (30-16).
Dawson Gets Defensive
Branden Dawson has recorded 25 steals through the first 13 games of the season (1.9 spg), ranking fifth in the Big Ten. As a freshman, Dawson collected 29 steals in 31 games. For comparison, Draymond Green led the 2011-12 Spartans with 54 steals.
Appling Takes Over
In three of Michigan State's wins, Keith Appling has made key plays down the stretch to secure a Spartan victory. Against Kansas, Appling scored five points in the final 1:36, first hitting a 3-pointer to give MSU a four-point lead, and then connecting on an acrobatic driving layup with 14 seconds left to give MSU a 67-64 win. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half against the Jayhawks. Against Boise State, with MSU leading by two points in the final minute, Appling hit another driving layup with 14 seconds left again, this time converting on a three-point play to give MSU a 73-68 advantage. With six seconds left, he hit one of two free throws to secure the win. Against Oakland, with the Golden Grizzlies having cut the lead to four points with under seven minutes left, Appling knocked down a 3-pointer to spark a 15-1 run to close the game.
MSU's Center Tandem
Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne combine to give Michigan State a steady inside presence. Although they occasionally will take the floor together, at least one of them is usually in the game. Combined they average 17.5 ppg and 15.3 rpg, with both ranking among the top three in the Big Ten in rebounding. Both of them are also shooting over 55 percent from the field.
Freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine have made key contributions early in their Spartan careers. Harris ranks second on the squad in scoring (12.4 ppg), and fourth in minutes (25.8 mpg). Valentine also has made his mark, ranking second in assists (2.7 apg), fourth in rebounds (4.2 rpg) and fifth in minutes (22.5 mpg). And although Matt Costello was limited early in the season by a bad tailbone bruise, he's improved as of late, recording six points and seven rebounds in seven minutes against Tuskegee.
Michigan State is outscoring opponents, 173-118, in second-chance points for the season. That's an average of +4.2 points per game (13.3-9.1). The Spartans are averaging 12.0 offensive boards per game. MSU has 156 offensive rebounds on the year compared to 255 defensive rebounds for its opponents, good for an offensive rebound percentage of .380.
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 164 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 (153), Kentucky (148), Duke (145) and Connecticut (138). (Through Dec. 29)
Frequent Flier Miles
With trips to Ramstein Air Base (vs. Connecticut), Atlanta (vs. Kansas) and Miami, Michigan State traveled nearly 12,000 miles in the month of November. In fact, the Spartans had flown more than 9500 miles prior to their home opener.
Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten makes a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball. Michigan (No. 2), Indiana (No. 5), Ohio State (No. 10), Minnesota (No. 11), Illinois (No. 12), and Michigan State (No. 19) are all ranked in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 (Dec. 24). To make matters more difficult for MSU, the Spartans will play a combined nine games against those five teams 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.
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.
Payne's Block Party
Junior center Adreian Payne ranks ninth in MSU history with 85 career blocks. Paul Davis is eighth on the career list with 87 blocks. Earlier this season, Payne equaled his career high with four blocks against Kansas.
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.
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.
Michigan State has a reputation for being a strong, physical team and the numbers back it up. Twelve players on MSU's roster can leg press over 700 pounds, with Derrick Nix leading the way with 1100 pounds. Since his arrival on campus, Keith Appling has increased his leg press by 315 pounds under the direction of Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Vorkapich. Collectively, the Spartans can leg press 6 tons - the equivalent of three cars or one African elephant. In terms of upper body strength, Nix leads the way once again, bench pressing the NBA testing standard of 185 pounds 22 times. Gary Harris is the strongest of the guards, ranking tied with Alex Gauna for second on the team with 19 repetitions.
In addition to their strength, the Spartans have also proven to be incredibly athletic, leading to the up-tempo pace Michigan State desires to play this season. When Coach Izzo recruited Adreian Payne, he called Payne the most athletic big man he's ever coached. He wasn't exaggerating as Payne holds the Izzo-era record for a standing vertical jump (no step) at 38 inches. Given a running start, three players can elevate greater than 40 inches: Keith Appling (42"), Adreian Payne (41"), and Travis Trice (40.5").
THE BOOK ON Tom Izzo
In his 18th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 423-171 (.712), and 196-90 (.689) 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 17 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 .685 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 (.710), 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), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Izzo (.712) and Lambert (.709). With 196 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.
Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 17 seasons, Tom Izzo won 412 games, ranking tied for second in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 17 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.