2012-2013 ITH season preview: Michigan State Spartans

  • 10/01/2012 8:57 am in

With the college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next few weeks. Today, we look at the Michigan State Spartans.

There’s no question Michigan State has enough talent to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten. The Spartans return a solid core that includes guard Keith Appling, forward Branden Dawson and big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, and they add a recruiting class that features Hamilton Southeastern product Gary Harris.

The primary challenge for Tom Izzo and the Spartans will be replacing the leadership of Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green. Green was one of the best leaders the Spartans have had in quite a while, and he was the guy responsible for getting his team through the valleys that come with every college basketball season. Green was also one of Michigan State’s main offensive contributors, averaging 16.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per contest last season.

So how will the Spartans replace such a key piece? The ideal choice — at least from a leadership perspective — would be to have Appling take on a bigger role. While he seems to have a more quiet demeanor, Appling was the team’s second best player last season, and he showed signs of being an elite point guard. Appling averaged 11.4 points in 31 minutes per game last year.

Nix, the Spartans’ 6-foot-9, 270-pound center, also figures to be one of the team’s primary leaders. Nix spoke to the team after its NCAA Tournament loss to Louisville in March, a sign he may be ready to help fill Green’s shoes. Nix was arrested because of a drug-related issue in April, and he was suspended indefinitely from the team. But Izzo said he’s worked his way back and is still in the mix to be the team’s captain.

From a production standpoint, the Spartans have plenty of capable candidates to replace Green. Dawson played well for the Spartans last season before his season ended in early March because of an ACL tear. It’s unclear whether Dawson’s knee will be healthy enough for him to play at the beginning of the season, but his recovery has gone “unbelievably,” according to Izzo.

And then there’s Harris, who was the 11th-ranked prospect in the 2012 class, according to ESPN.com. The 6-foot-4 guard is projected by many to be in the Spartans’ starting lineup, and he’s talented enough to make an immediate impact. With Harris and Appling on the court together, Michigan State could have one of the best backcourt duos in the conference.

The Spartans also add freshmen Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello. Costello, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound big man, averaged 25 points and 19 rebounds per game in his senior year of high school.

Bottom line: Replacing Green won’t be easy, but the Spartans have more talent on this year’s roster than they’ve had in the last several years. If Harris can make the instant impact that everybody expects him to make, Michigan State could very well compete for another Big Ten title.

Quotable: “I just think Gary Harris, what makes him special is he could be the first player in a long time to come in and be equally valuable on both ends of the court. Not many guys, I mean he’s got all three facets — offense, defense, intelligence. He’s got all three. And he’s got an incredible work ethic, so maybe it’s four. A lot of guys are good offensively. There’s been a few guys, a la Charlie Bell, who were very good defensively. Not many guys can do it on both ends. This kid can legitimately play both ends.” — Tom Izzo

PreviouslyNebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, PurdueWisconsin, Minnesota

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  • nysparty

    good report, pretty fair and on the money

  • Oldguyy

    It will be interesting to see how MSU adjusts to Green’s absence. His numbers were incredible. He had the best total rebound percentage in the league, and his assist percentage was better than a lot of point guards, and about the same as Jordan Taylor’s.

  • SCHoosier

    Izzo..because of who he is. & how he coaches has enuff athletes to make things miserable for everybody in the conference including the Hoosiers..if they are not on their game. Sparties will get better as the year progresses and somebody will step up when needed..its just the MSU way under TZ.

  • jmfriedman

    I believe they will struggle a bit without Green. I can recall dozens of “huge” shots that guy made in crunch time and saved MSU’s butt. I hope IU makes Harris regret his decision to go to MSU. It will be a tough game in East Lansing, but I think Cody will be too much for them and IU will FINALLY win there…..Can’t wait!

  • MillaRed

    No doubt one of the top 5 coaches in the country. Also one of the top 3 whiners of all-time. Guys like Izzo and Bo should watch one of their games once in a while and see how pathetic they look when they are on the brink of tears. Seriously.

  • MillaRed

    Interesting you bring up Green and Taylor in the same post. Two guys that absolutely killed the Hoosiers over the last 3 years. Whenever they needed a shot, they drained a 3. Good-bye to you two forever!

  • Evansville Hoosier

    MSU’s talent is quite imposing at every position except the 4, and for that reason, they’ll give us a hell of a game. Our game in East Lansing should be one of the most difficult of the year. But in the end, I think we are at least equal talent wise, and I think we win with experience (as in C-Wat, Cody, and Jordan have experience leading the team; no one for the Spartans does) and depth.


    * Numerous backcourt duos that we will face have been discussed but the duo of Appling & Harris probably concern me more than the any other ones especially towards the end of the year.

    * MSt may not even be in the top 3 or 4 of the conference at the start of the season, and may still not even be in the top 3 at the beginning of the conference schedule, but if past precedence tells us anything it’s that Izzo will have them pretty much hitting on all cylinders towards the end of the season. Once they adjust to not having Green, Harris gets used to the overall speed of the college game and Dawson’s knee is fully recovered I fully expect them to be the toughest nonHoosier team in the B1G.

    * Winning a game in their house is one of the few items still left to be checked off the ” have fully made it back ” list. It will also be interesting to see how CZ plays there after the game he had there last year.

  • SCHoosier

    Part of his charm:) If I was a ref when doing an Izzo-Bo match up..I’d wear earplugs and carry a box of tissues to handout…:)

  • marcusgresham

    No one will ever top ol’ Dick Fick at Morehead St. back around ’90.

  • b_side

    Great point re: CZ’s play in East Lansing last year. Not only was it a tough atmosphere being on the road, but also his first B1G game.

    Night and day come 2/19/12.


    Weird, had totally forgotten that name but instantly put a face with it as soon as I read it and with no surprise a gameface. lol

    Sometimes you make me think that you must have a photographic memory capable of instantaneous recall.

  • marcusgresham

    It’s hard to forget that guy when you worked with a Morehead grad who used to tell stories of how Fick lost his job because of drinking. Passing out in a restaurant and urinating yourself makes you kind of unforgettable.


    I could see where that kind of behavior would go along with some of the faces used to make and some of the things he done on the sideline.

    Eddie Sutton’s long lost brother ?