#16 Michigan State Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Michigan State Spartans

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #16
Conference Rank: #3 Big Ten

Michigan State Team Page#16 Michigan State Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy Michigan State Basketball Tickets

When the expectations are low, at least by Michigan State standards, that is when the Spartans tend to do their best. The expectations were certainly not low last season, but a rash of injuries kept MSU from seriously competing for a Big Ten title. But Coach Tom Izzo had his team ready to play in March and his squad won the Big Ten Tournament and cruised into the Elite Eight. It was a bit of an upset though when Michigan State lost to Connecticut with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

2013-14 Record: 29-9, 12-6
2013-14 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tom Izzo
Coach Record: 468-187 at Michigan State, 468-187 overall

Who’s Out:
This graduating senior class was the first under Coach Izzo to not reach the Final Four at some point during their four-year collegiate careers. That was an amazing streak that came so close to continuing. The loss of Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris, who left early for the NBA, is absolutely massive. Payne dominated the paint last season and averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. He was not always in the paint though and even shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. Appling ran the show and dished out 4.5 assists per game on top of his 11.2 points. But it was Harris who was the team’s top scorer. The 6-4 guard totaled 16.7 points per game and also led the team in steals. Kenny Kaminski, Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd were all role players on Coach Izzo’s deep bench and will not be returning for the 2014-2015 campaign.

Who’s In:
There may not be a top tier recruit who is going to dominate the Big Ten from day one in this class, but it is still a solid class. Lourawls Nairn, who made his name even more interesting by going with the nickname Tum Tum, is an insanely fast point guard who will spend this season as a backup. He is not a shooter or much of a scorer at all, but Nairn can drive and dish with the best of them. Small forwards Marvin Clark and Javon Bess will add options on the wing. Clark is a decent shooter, while Bess is a tough player who can do the dirty work. The last of the incoming freshmen is walk-on forward Kenny Goins. For this season, Cleveland State transfer Bryn Forbes could make the biggest impact. Last year he averaged 15.6 points per game for the Vikings and he will at least be a very dangerous shooter off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
The starting backcourt, unless this team plays small and adds another guard to the lineup, will consist of Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice. Dawson is the team’s only returning double-digit scorer. He has yet to reach his full potential that Spartan fans have been waiting for, but as far as scoring is concerned, this is his team. The 6-6 wing is not a shooter, but can be spectacular inside the arc. He also averaged a team high 8.3 rebounds last season and is capable of spending time at the four spot as needed. Valentine is one of the most versatile guards in the Big Ten and averaged 8.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists during his sophomore season. He is ready to step into a larger leadership role this season and is capable of boosting those numbers. With other scoring threats on the floor, the unselfish Valentine passed the ball as an underclassman, yet he is a solid shooter and has the strength to battle in the paint. Trice will run the show for his senior season, assuming he can stay healthy. Nagged by injuries throughout his career, Trice has yet to prove what he can really do. Sophomore Alvin Ellis III will battle it out with the newcomers for minutes off of the bench and, potentially, a starting job if Coach Izzo wants to slide Dawson up to the four and Valentine to the three.

Final Projection:
Matt Costello will be the new leader in the frontcourt after earning 20 starts a season ago. He averaged just 4.0 points and 3.3 rebounds last season, but he is a solid defender and has been working on improving his mid-range jumper. Gavin Schilling is the only other returning post player and he averaged just 6.4 minutes per game as a freshman. Schilling did show potential though and should be ready for a big boost in production. The frontcourt will be fine in the rebounding department thanks to the rebounding talent on the wings, but finding an interior scorer to compliment Valentine and Dawson will be extremely important for this group.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Travis Trice, Senior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Denzel Valentine, Junior, Guard, 8.0 points per game
Branden Dawson, Senior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Gavin Schilling, Sophomore, Forward, 1.4 points per game
Matt Costello, Junior, Forward, 4.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.5 (57th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.6 (63, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.4 (30, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.7 (21, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.1 (30, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.2 (20, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.7 (149, 9)
Rebound Margin: 5.1 (27, 3)
Assists Per Game: 16.8 (6, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.6 (103, 9)

Madness 2015 NBA Draft Rankings:
#39 Branden Dawson
#70 Denzel Valentine

Madness 2014 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#79 Lourawls Nairn


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