#26 Michigan State Men's Basketball Preview

Michigan State Spartans

Overall Rank: #26
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten
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2010-11: 19-15, 9-9
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tom Izzo (402-176 at Michigan State, 402-176 overall)

Michigan State had a tough season in 2010-2011. Injuries and suspensions left the Spartans thin all over the court, but Coach Tom Izzo still led his squad to the NCAA Tournament. This is now a young team that still has a lot to prove. They still need to prove that they can stay healthy too. The leader on and off the floor is forward Draymond Green. The 6-7 senior is a superb all-around player who tallied a couple triple-double’s last year. Obviously he can score and rebound, but his ability to pass and shoot is what makes Green such a dynamic player.

Who’s Out:
The injury bug has not disappeared as forward Delvon Roe was forced to cut his career short due to a multitude of injuries. Roe has never been fully healthy during his time in East Lansing, but he still managed to make a huge impact on the defensive end and now the Spartans frontcourt has little room for error. Garrick Sherman is also out after averaging 12.1 minutes per game a year ago. Sherman was never much of a scoring option, but he was a big body who could eat up some space and minutes. Roe is a big, unexpected loss, but the bigger losses are on the perimeter. Guards Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers were up and down during their collegiate careers, but they did lead the Spartans to two Final Fours. Lucas ran the point and averaged 17.0 points and 3.4 assists during his senior season. Summers was the more inconsistent player, but he still averaged 11.6 points and 4.2 rebounds during his senior campaign. Korie Lucious was being groomed to replace Lucas, as he did very well a couple years back when Lucas tore an ACL during the NCAA Tournament. However, Lucious was kicked off the team halfway through the 2010-2011 campaign and took his 4.1 assists per contest with him to join fellow Spartan reject Chris Allen at Iowa State. The unexpected losses on the perimeter last year gave walk-on Mike Kebler a lot more playing time than anybody thought he would get and he wrapped up his MSU career averaging over ten minutes per game.

Who’s In:
The newcomers will have to play a bigger role on this team than usual under Coach Izzo. The big pickup, for now at least, is Brandon Wood. Wood graduated from Valpraiso with a year of eligibility left and opted to spend his final season at Michigan State. The 6-2 senior averaged 16.7 points and 3.1 assists with the Crusaders last season and is suddenly the experienced option on the perimeter and will likely start at the point guard spot. He may not score as much in the Big Ten, but Wood is a good shooter and a capable ball handler. Another option at the point is Travis Trice. The 6-0 freshman is also a great shooter and could spend some time off the ball. On the wing things get even more interesting with Branden Dawson and Russell Byrd. Dawson is a physical small forward who can hit the glass effectively. On a team that ranked 48th in the nation in rebounding margin last year (that’s really bad for Michigan State), Coach Izzo will be sure to get the most out of Dawson’s ability to rebound. Byrd is a player who can create shots for himself and has pretty much unlimited range. Sidelined with a foot injury in 2010-2011, the 6-7 guard will add a ton of size to the perimeter. Brandan Kearney is another lanky guard, but he has a little more work to do before he will see too many minutes. Alex Gauna is the only new face in the frontcourt. He redshirted last season to gain some strength and the Spartans will need Gauna to be able to eat up some minutes and grab some rebounds. He also has the ability to stop outside and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency.

Who to Watch:
With only Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix back to join Green in the frontcourt, this is a group that will need to stay healthy and productive. Payne is a great athlete for a 6-10, 225 pound center and can score in a variety of ways. Derrick Nix is the big bodied center who can create space in the paint. However, Nix’s weight is often an issue and both of those players averaged less than ten minutes per game last year. They will need to play closer to 20 or 25 minutes this year if the Spartans hope to have an effective frontcourt.

Final Projection:
Sophomore Keith Appling is another option to run the point. The problem is Appling committed way too many turnovers last year. Instead, he may be the new shooting guard while Wood and Trice manage the point. Appling is a superb shooter and connected on 41.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc as a freshman. The Spartans may also need to rely a little bit on Austin Thornton in the backcourt. The 6-5 senior is a good shooter, but not as talented as the newcomers. Thornton is not expected to make a major contribution, but he was not expected to play much at all last season either. There is some depth on this team, but most of it just happens to be very inexperienced. Coach Izzo will get the best out of his players, but if this team hopes for another deep tournament run, they will have to get productive minutes out of Payne and Nix in the frontcourt and some freshmen on the perimeter.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Brandon Wood, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Keith Appling, Sophomore, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Branden Dawson, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Draymond Green, Senior, Forward, 12.6 points per game
Adreian Payne, Sophomore, Center, 2.5 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#48 Draymond Green
#81 Adreian Payne

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#17 Branden Dawson
#103 Dwaun Anderson
#144 Brandan Kearney

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