Michigan State Spartans
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten
Michigan State will move forward without their leader, Draymond Green. Green leaves the Spartans as the school’s top all-time rebounder and his versatility is something nobody will replace any time soon. But without Green, Michigan State will look to get up and down the floor more often; at least on occasion. With a smart, steady point guard like Keith Appling, MSU has the player who can lead the break. Appling averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 assists as a sophomore and is emerging as the new leader for this group. Appling is not much of a shooter, but he can score around the basket and find the new scorers on the wing.
2011-12 Record: 29-8, 13-5
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tom Izzo
Coach Record: 412-169 at Michigan State, 412-169 overall
Green did everything for the Spartans. During his senior season he averaged 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks. He was on the floor for over 33 minutes per game. Replacing Green will be tough enough, but there is more. Brandon Wood spent one year with MSU after a stellar career at Valparaiso. During that one season he was third on the team in scoring and joined Green as the most dangerous shooting threats. Speaking of shooters, Austin Thornton played a lot more than expected during his senior year. He was mostly a shooter, but Thornton was a hardworking player on both ends of the floor. Little used center Anthony Ianni is the other departure.
Per usual, Coach Tom Izzo has plenty of new faces who are talented enough to make an immediate impact. Gary Harris could step right into a starting job. The 6-4 reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana can score in bunches. More importantly, at least for Coach Izzo and Harris’ chances at earning a starting job, is the fact that Harris plays great defense. The Spartans need a shooter in the starting five and Harris has a very good chance of being that guy. Denzel Valentine is a big, tough 6-5 wing who can do a bit of everything. He is a good rebounder who can handle the ball and score in a variety of ways. He should find a spot in the regular rotation off of the bench. Matt Costello’s versatility is something the frontcourt will want to take advantage of this season. He can score inside and out and will always play tough defense. He could stand to gain a little more strength, but that will come with time and some hard work. Kenny Kaminski rounds out the recruiting class. Kaminski is another forward who can shoot, but he could miss the entire season with a shoulder injury.
Who to Watch:
The focus will shift to the backcourt with Green gone and that is good news for a handful of returning players. Travis Trice will primarily be Appling’s backup at the point, but he is a capable shooter and could see more time this year beside Appling. If Coach Izzo needs two ball handlers on the floor, Trice is a great option. Russell Byrd and Brandan Kearney have not seen much action, but that could change. Byrd has been hampered by injuries for the better part of two seasons. The 6-7 wing is a great long range shooter, but connected on just 27.3 percent of his attempts last year. If he can get healthy and stay healthy, Byrd should see a huge increase in production. But it is Branden Dawson who should benefit the most from the slightly more up tempo style the Spartans will employ this season. Dawson started 31 games as freshman and was fourth on the team in scoring with 8.4 points per game and second in rebounding with 4.5. He is not a shooter, but Dawson will score in bunches by getting to the bucket. If Michigan State truly wants to play small, Dawson will need to be able to play at the four spot on occasion. He practiced there a bit during the offseason, but the rest of the team will need to help out on the glass if Coach Izzo is going to be able to effectively move Dawson to the power forward position for long stretches. And in the backcourt there really are not any proven rebounders beside Dawson.
In the frontcourt rebounding could be an issue as well. Adreian Payne started beside Green last season and did a decent enough job on the glass. At 6-10 and 240 pounds, the junior center has the ability to hit the glass. Much of the time it was Green who went after the rebounds while everybody else was running the other way. Now that Payne needs to rebound, he should see his numbers increase quite a bit. Payne will also score a bit in the paint and block a few shots. Derrick Nix is the big, less athletic center. Nix is expected to take on more of a leadership role this year after coming in off of the bench last season. He is not a particularly strong rebounder, but Nix will use his large 270 pound frame to create space for himself in order to score in the paint. If Nix and Payne are on the floor, Michigan State will have to slow things down again. The injury to Kaminski leaves fewer options to backup Nix and Payne. Alex Gauna has some experience, but Costello is the only other player that is at least 6-8. That is why Dawson has spent some time at the four spot in practice. Starting Nix and Payne is fine, but those two cannot be on the floor together too much due to the limited options behind them. But this is a team that will work with a big wing playing the four spot as long as Payne and Nix hit the glass effectively. And Coach Izzo will make sure rebounding is not a problem.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Keith Appling, Junior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Gary Harris, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Branden Dawson, Sophomore, Guard, 8.4 points per game
Adreian Payne, Junior, Center, 7.0 points per game
Derrick Nix, Senior, Center, 8.1 points per game
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#60 Branden Dawson
#99 Adreian Payne
Madness 2012 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#14 Gary Harris
#80 Matt Costello
#90 Kenny Kaminski
#95 Denzel Valentine