Big Ten Basketball Preview: Michigan State

Story posted November 6, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Michael Katz

It was another solid year for Michigan State in 2012, a team that has been one of the most consistent programs of the past 20 years under future hall of fame coach Tom Izzo.

Thanks to their gritty defense and post play, the Spartans finished tied for second in the Big Ten standings with Ohio State and made the NCAA tournament as a three-seed.

The Spartans made it to the sweet sixteen before being eliminated by Duke. It was the programs fifth sweet sixteen appearance in the last six years, and its 16th NCAA tournament appearance in a row.

The Spartans have only missed the tournament twice in the Tom Izzo era, and those were his first two seasons as head coach.

Key Returning Players

Adreian Payne, Senior, 6’10” Center

 A second team All-Big Ten honoree last season, Payne started 24 games, averaging 10.5 points and a team high 7.6 rebounds per game. His 46 blocks on the season was good for sixth on the programs single-season list.

Going into his senior season, Payne is a preseason All-American selected by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, and was selected as the top center in the country by Lindy’s College Basketball Magazine.

Keith Appling, Senior, 6’1” Point Guard

A key player since his freshman year, Appling was a second team All-Big Ten selection by the league’s coaches last season. He led the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and was the only Spartan to start every game. He is a preseason second team All-Big Ten selection by USA Today.

Gary Harris, Sophomore, 6’4” Guard

An extremely highly touted prospect coming out of high school, Harris was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year a season ago after averaging 12.9 points per game. He was also a finalist for the national freshman of the year. USA Today has Harris as a preseason second team All-American.

Key Losses

Derrick Nix, 6’9” Forward

A big bruiser in the paint weighing in at 270 pounds, Nix was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. Nix was ninth in the Big Ten in rebounding with 6.6 per game, and scored in double figures in eight of his final 13 games.

2012 Team Ranks

Offense: 68 Points Per Game, 156th in the nation.

Defense: 59.1 Points Per Game, 25th in the nation.

Non-Conference Schedule

As always, Michigan State has a tough non-conference schedule lined up. It takes on teams like North Carolina, Georgetown and Texas, but the toughest game they play is surely to be preseason No. 1 Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The teams are ranked first and second in the nation heading into the season and the Wildcats bring in one of the most anticipated freshman classes in recent memory.

It will be interesting to see if the veteran Spartans defense and grinding style will be able to contain Kentucky’s youth and superior athleticism.

Conference Schedule

The Big Ten is going to be a shark tank once again in 2013. The Spartans received a favorable schedule where they do not play more than two consecutive road games at any point and they do not have any long stretches of playing against powerhouse programs.

The Spartans toughest stretch consists of Illinois on the road on Jan. 18 followed by Indiana and Michigan at home. Illinois is no slouch of a team in its own building and Indiana and Michigan will both be stellar once again. Both of those games are very losable.

Prediction

This season will be similar to last season for the Spartans as they are one of the most consistent programs in the country. As always, they will beat teams with strong play in the post and suffocating defense. I predict they will finish second in the Big Ten, gain a top four seed in the NCAA tournament and make another sweet sixteen appearance at the very least.

Michael Katz is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mak5672@psu.edu.