Michigan State Spartans: NCAA Tournament Team Preview

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Michigan State University Spartans (4 Seed, East Bracket)

Record: 25-8 (12-6 in Big 10)

Coach: Tom Izzo

Tournament Berth: Big 10 Champions

Big Wins: Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa

Big Losses: Nebraska, Georgetown, Illinois, North Carolina

Michigan State defeated its in-state rival, Michigan, 69-55 on Sunday to win the Big 10 Championship. This is a monumental win for the Spartans because it will be a significant momentum builder on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament. Also, Michigan State likely received a much higher seed after winning the Big 10 Championship than they would have if they did not win the tournament.

The beginning of the season was a special time in East Lansing, Michigan. In only their second game of the year, the Spartans defeated Kentucky, who were ranked number one in the nation at the time. Michigan State then began to tear through the first half of their schedule in which they went 18-1. The only loss of the first half came to North Carolina, who have widely been known as “giant killers” this season around the NCAA.

The second half of the season was a disappointing and inconsistent time for the Spartans. Star players Adreian Payne and Keith Appling missed a few key games during the second half, which put the team at a disadvantage. Losses to teams such as Illinois and Nebraska hurt their resume, and the team could not find its consistent groove that was present in the first half of the season. However, their groove was found during the Big 10 Tournament, as they won the conference title.

Team Leaders

POINTS

PPG

FG%

FT%

3PT%

Gary Harris

17.2

.419

.802

.355

Adreian Payne

15.7

.514

.736

.429

REBOUNDS

REB

OFF

DEF

BPG

Branden Dawson

8.3

3.2

5.3

1.0

Adreian Payne

7.3

1.7

5.6

0.9

ASSISTS

APG

SPG

TO

AST/TO

Keith Appling

4.7

1.2

2.1

2.2

Denzel Valentine

3.9

1.0

1.8

2.2

Starting Five

C – Adreian Payne

G – Keith Appling

G – Branden Dawson

G – Gary Harris

G – Denzel Valentine

Who’s Hot: Adreian Payne has recently been on fire, and he was an integral part of the Spartan’s Big 10 Championship run. After sitting out almost all of January, the 6-10 center came back to give Michigan State a much needed boost. The senior has been an offensive force on the court when healthy, and he averaged 15.7 points per game. The Spartans will rely heavily on the talented big man if they are to advance far into the NCAA Tournament.

Who’s Not: Keith Appling is one of the Spartans best players on the court, but he has been struggling as of late. Appling sat out a few games in February with a wrist injury, and he has not been the same player since the injury. The senior guard’s potential is sky high, and he was an absolute beast against no. 1 Kentucky that saw him score 22 points with eight rebounds and eight assists. Appling may very well be the key to whether the Spartans can make the Final Four. When he was healthy, Michigan State thrived as one of the best teams in the country, but the team struggled after he suffered a wrist injury.

Outlook: When the NCAA Tournament comes around, one should never count out Michigan State. The Spartans have one of the best coaches in NCAA basketball in Tom Izzo, and he knows a thing or two about advancing in the tournament. For Michigan State to be successful, their high-scoring attack will need to balance out with a strong defensive approach. Winning the Big 10 Championship was huge for the program that now has some serious momentum just in time for the NCAA Tournament.

Commentary by Glen Parris

Sources:
NBC Sports
ESPN
SB Nation

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