Spartans’ Draft Stocks after NCAA Tournament

APRIL 4 – After a disappointing loss to UConn in the Elite Eight, four Spartans now have time to think about their NBA futures.

Adreian PayneKeith ApplingGary Harris and Branden Dawson are all targets of NBA scouts and general managers. Their draft stocks have gone up and down throughout the season, especially in the tournament. Here is where each player’s draft stock stands.

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Adreian Payne’s Draft Stock: UP

Payne had the best season of his college career and is peaking at the right time. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting just over 50 percent from the field and over 42 percent from beyond the arc.

Payne really developed his outside game this season, hitting 27 more three-pointers than his first three years combined. At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, he has an NBA-ready body that would be perfect for a power forward. His inside-out game has high value, but his post game needs a little work to be effective against the giants in the Association.

Payne projects to be a mid-first round pick just outside of the lottery. At age 23, he is mature enough to be a plug-and-play guy and could contribute right away in his rookie year.

A contender would like to have someone like Payne on their roster to be a role player that can handle the bright lights of the NBA.

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Keith Appling’s Draft Stock: DOWN

Through the first seven games of the season, Appling was in the conversation for best point guard in the NCAA. He averaged 16.9 points and 5.6 assists per game, shot 59 percent from the floor and 52 percent from long range. Those were All-American numbers.

In the eighth game of the season against North Carolina, Appling took a nasty spill and injured his right wrist. No one really knew the severity of the injury, and he played through the pain for 14 more games. His shooting numbers declined, but his overall production only diminished slightly.

Then, Appling missed three games in the middle of the Big Ten season. The idea was to let him fully heal and be ready for the final stretch. That is when things really went downhill.

For the rest of the season, he averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 assists per game, shot 45 percent from the field and only made two three-pointers. It seemed as if his injury became more of a mental problem than a physical one towards the end.

Appling is small for the NBA at 6-foot-1 (and that is a very generous measurement). He is lightning quick and is great at taking the ball to the hole, but might struggle with the trees down low when trying to drive. NBA scouts saw Appling’s true potential at the beginning of the season as a great shooter and an even better defender.

Appling is projected to go in the late second round or undrafted. He could be a solid backup point guard for a team that has a star guard already. He likely would not play much, if at all, right away, but is worth the gamble for a team late in the draft.

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Gary Harris’ Draft Stock: UP

Harris could have left after his freshman campaign, but shocked many MSU fans by staying another year. This decision worked in his favor, as he led the team in scoring and ranked sixth in the Big Ten.

However, his shooting numbers did go down from last year and he really struggled at times. Harris’ field goal percentage dropped to 42.9 percent, down from 45.6 percent last year. His three-point numbers dropped even more. He shot 35.2 percent this year and 41.1 percent last year. This drop off is due to Harris having to take over the majority of the scoring load with Payne, Appling and Dawson missing significant time.

Harris is projected to be a lottery pick in this year’s draft. He is a bit small for a shooting guard in the NBA at 6-foot-4, but has huge scoring potential. His outside shooting numbers will have to improve for him to make a huge impact with his new team right away. As a role player who could come off the bench, he could quickly develop into a top-tier two-guard.

Based on where he is projected to be drafted, he will get a good amount of minutes right away. Harris plays lock-down defense, but might struggle initially trying to guard bigger two-guards. Given time and developed properly, he could have All-Star potential down the road.

* * *

Branden Dawson’s Draft Stock: UNCHANGED

Dawson’s future at MSU is uncertain, but odds are he will stay in school for his senior season. He has not made an official decision yet, but making the leap right now would be a mistake. His draft stock is unchanged because he was not ready for the NBA coming into this season and is not ready now.

After missing nine games with a broken hand, Dawson’s scoring output greatly increased. He finished the year averaging 11.2 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game. He shot over 61 percent just because he never left the paint.

At 6-foot-6, he is vastly undersized as a power forward and would never be able to play the same role he does at State, which is to swallow rebounds and make layups. Dawson does have springs for legs and is a freakish athlete, but athleticism only carries you so far in the NBA. He has absolutely no jump shot and needs to refine his ball-handling skills.

If Dawson stays a Spartan for one more year, he could develop a jump shot and use the season to prove to NBA scouts he can consistently score outside of the paint. He is basically the opposite of Kenny Kaminski, who is a big man that cannot score inside. The majority of NBA experts either do not think Dawson will go pro or think he will go undrafted.

An NBA team could take a chance on him based on his pure athleticism in the hopes that next-level coaching could help him with his jumper.

He is entertaining to watch and has tremendous upside, but is just not ready for the Association.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/04/04/spartans-draft-stocks-after-ncaa-tournament/#sthash.A8ApbYnW.dpuf

Spartans Shoot the Lights out in Win Over Purdue

FEB 20 – Gary Harris and company hosted a shooting clinic in West Lafayette, Ind. on Thursday.

Michigan State started their game against Purdue on an unprecedented 11-14 streak from beyond the arc. Harris led the way for the Spartans with six three-pointers, finally breaking out of his shooting slump. He finished with 25 points, far surpassing his average of just over 13 points per game during his six-game shooting slump.

The Boilermakers hung tough for most of the game, especially when the Spartans came down to earth with their shooting in the second half. They capitalized on MSU’s lazy transition defense, turning missed threes into easy layups on the other end. But the Spartans were nearly unstoppable on the offensive end, eventually running away with a 94-79 victory.

Adreian Payne continued his stellar play after coming off a foot injury, tallying 23 points on 8-14 shooting. Keith Appling did not start, but logged heavy minutes. His right wrist is still bothering him, as he only took one shot. Appling played the role of facilitator, dishing out nine assists. MSU as a team shared the ball extremely well, with 26 assists on 30 shots.

Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice recovered nicely from their ugly game against Nebraska. Valentine had 16 points and five rebounds, and Trice had 14 points and six assists. They combined for five three-pointers on the night.

MSU made 17 three-pointers against Purdue, setting a school record and equaling the number of total field goals made in their game against the Cornhuskers.

The win gives the Spartans an 11-3 conference record, putting them a half game ahead of Michigan for tops in the Big Ten.

Michigan State heads to Ann Arbor on Sunday for a showdown with the Wolverines. Tip is set at 12:00 p.m. and the game can be seen on CBS.


Blake Froling is the co-host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/02/21/spartans-shoot-the-lights-out-in-win-over-purdue-2/#sthash.q0FFDGIZ.dpuf

3-Point Play: Nebraska Edition

FEB 17 – The Spartans (21-5, 10-3) found themselves on the losing end of a knockdown, drag-out battle with Nebraska on Sunday afternoon. The Cornhuskers (14-10, 6-6) found their rhythm early, opening up a 13-4 lead by the first media timeout. MSU proceeded to charge back with an 11-0 run of their own, holding Nebraska without a field goal for over eight minutes, but the Cornhuskers tightened up their defense toward the end of the half and took a 32-25 lead into halftime.

Nebraska maintained their lead for most of the second half. Whenever MSU would start to make a run, the Cornhuskers would answer back with a basket of their own. Gary Harris was fouled on a three-pointer and made all of his free throws with 4:42 left, cutting the Nebraska lead to 51-47, but Terran Petteway was a shooting machine, seemingly stopping every single MSU run with a three-pointer.

Adreian Payne missed a breakaway layup and Nebraska quickly converted on one of their own to give them a 56-51 lead with just over a minute remaining. When MSU had to foul, Nebraska made their free throws and the Cornhuskers came away with the huge 60-51 upset. Here are three factors of the game.

1. Gary Harris is Still in a Funk

Although Harris led the team with 18 points, his shot was off and he kept forcing the issue. He shot just 1-7 from beyond the arc and 5-15 overall. Over his last six games, Harris is shooting 32.5 percent from the field and 24 percent from deep.

“He’s in here morning, noon and night shooting,” said Coach Izzo in the postgame conference. “I don’t know what you do. It’s not what I do, it’s what he does and all I can tell you is he’s working on it. We’re just going to keep going to him, because he is what he is.”

Although his shot is not falling, he continues to heave them up. With Appling and Payne missing significant time, Harris has felt as though he has to shoulder the scoring load. To his credit, he started taking it to the hole more frequently against Nebraska and converted on all seven of his free-throw attempts.

2. The Spartans Need Branden Dawson Back ASAP

In the last seven games that Branden Dawson has missed, the Spartans have been outrebounded in two of them, both losses. Not only is Dawson the best rebounder on the team, his is also a the top defender against big wing players. Coach Izzo called Dawson the “second-best defender on this team.” The game could have gone in a much different direction had Dawson been guarding the hot-shooting Terran Petteway.

“They made some circus shots,” Izzo said, “at least four of them (Terran) Petteway, two of them in the first half and two in the second with guys right on him. It was too late then; he was already into his thing. On the bench, we just said, ‘are you kidding me?’”

3. Road to B1G Title More Difficult

When the score of the Wisconsin vs. Michigan games was announced at the Breslin Center, the crowd erupted. All Michigan State had to do was beat a middle of the pack team at home and they would be atop the Big Ten. But with a stumble against Nebraska, MSU and U of M are still tied at 10-3 with a head-to-head matchup coming next Sunday in Ann Arbor.

“They came in here and punched us in the mouth and we didn’t punch back,” Izzo said.

Michigan State travels to Purdue on Thursday before heading to the Crisler Center for the showdown with the Wolverines. The schedule does not get any easier, with Illinois and Iowa on the horizon and the season finale at Ohio State. There is a chance that Dawson could return against Michigan, but his status is uncertain.

Michigan’s remaining schedule is more favorable, with Purdue on the road and Minnesota at home coming after the MSU game. Illinois and Indiana close out their season. It should be an exciting finish to the regular season, and the matchup next Sunday could crown the conference champion.

3-Point Play: Minnesota Edition

JAN 11 – It took five extra minutes, but the Spartans (15-1, 4-0) were able to overcome a second half deficit to beat Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) on Saturday, 87-75. They did it without both Adreian Payne and a less than 100 percent Travis Trice, whom coach Izzo describe as “zone busters.”

The Golden Gophers had the hot hand from outside to start the game, connecting on seven of 12 from deep in the first half. They went on a 13-4 run to take a 29-21 lead with six and a half minutes remaining in the first. Kaminski was lights out from deep for MSU, making his first four three-pointers in the first half. The Spartans trailed by five at the break.

Michigan State chipped away at the deficit throughout the second half. They finally took the lead with just under 11 minutes remaining, their first edge since midway through the first half. A pair of Matt Costello free throws extended MSU’s lead to five with 22 seconds remaining. Malik Smith hit a three-pointer with 16 seconds left for the Gophers, then Deandre Mathieu made a layup in the closing seconds to send the game into overtime.

The overtime period was dominated by Michigan State. Minnesota didn’t get onto the board for the first four minutes. The Spartans outscored the Gophers 16-4 largely on free throws and won by a score of 87-75. Here are three storylines that stood out in the overtime win.

1. Kenny Kaminski: Pure Shooter

Redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski had his coming out party against Ohio State, in which he hit three shots from beyond the arc. None were bigger than his three-pointer in overtime to give the Spartans a two-point lead. Against Minnesota, he was scorching. Kaminski connected on his first five three-pointers and earned extra minutes with Branden Dawson disappearing in the first half (I’ll get to that later).

Kaminski has responded as well as coach Izzo could have hoped after his second suspension of the season. He has missed six games this year due to suspensions, mostly for academic reasons.

“He has made some progress,” Coach Izzo said in the post game press conference, “he has been handling it pretty well and we are going to keep moving forward.”

Izzo went on to say, “If he continues to improve and we try to get a rebound once in a while and guard someone once in a while, he can shoot it with anybody. We do have to do more than just score on one end, but he did give us a lift at a point in time when we weren’t very good.”


2. Will the real Branden Dawson please stand up?

Zero points and three rebounds is the disappointing stat line that Branden Dawson turned in through one half of play on Saturday. Coming off another disappointing game against Ohio State in which he only scored four points and grabbed four rebounds, many thought he would be fired-up to bounce back.

That was not the case in the first half.

When he was on the court, Dawson looked disinterested at times, not fighting for rebounds like we are accustomed to seeing. “There is something wrong with Branden, there is no question about it,” Izzo said.

He was benched at the start of the second half with the hot Kaminski replacing him. His first basket came on a tip-in with 11:30 remaining in the second half and his play picked up after that, but still not the level that coaches expect out of him.

“You can see the look on his face, everybody can see it,” Izzo said, “My mother calls; she’s 87, she is wearing her bifocals looking at the TV and she can see it.”

With Dawson being a nonfactor in the first half and a slightly better version in the second half and overtime, this leads us to wonder, which player is the true Branden Dawson? The one who scored a season-high 20 points to go along with nine rebounds against Penn State? Or the player who turned in four points and four rebounds in the overtime win over Ohio State?

“He was averaging a double-double going into that Carolina game,” Izzo said. “He really struggled in that game, and then he had the big stretch where he played very well, and then he has not played with that same energy and it’s nothing with his teammates, it’s nothing with his coaches, it’s nothing with school. It’s something and we just have to figure it out and get him back.”

The hope is that Dawson will bring a consistent effort on a nightly basis because his pure athleticism makes him one of the most exciting players to watch, and the sky is the limit for his potential. His freakish jumping ability makes up for the height he gives up in the paint, and he leads the Spartans in rebounding with 8.7 per game. Dawson grabbed some important boards near the end of regulation and overtime, which is a good sign. The only question is, why can’t he perform at high level consistently for a full game?

3. Costello and Valentine fill in nicely for Payne

Adreian Payne played through pain to score 18 points and grab eight rebounds in a heroic effort against Ohio State. Due to a right foot sprain, Coach Izzo didn’t even think the senior would play when he got to the Breslin Center on Tuesday night. But Payne gritted his teeth throughout the game and played a major role in the overtime win.

The pain was too much for Payne to play through on Saturday, however, so the Spartans found themselves without 16.2 points of offense.

But that’s where MSU’s team displayed its depth, which has been better than expected, with all of the injuries and suspensions that have plagued the team. He has seen multiple players step up when their team needed them throughout the year. On Saturday, Matt Costello returned to the starting lineup and played his best game since he came down with mononucleosis. He scored seven points and added eight rebounds and three blocks.

Denzel Valentine was in the starting lineup on Saturday and had a tough time shooting. With the emergence of Kaminski, the Spartans didn’t need Valentine to be a scoring machine. He did come up clutch when his team needed it, though, and finished the game with nine points and ten rebounds.

“He got some big rebounds late. I thought he defended better late,” Izzo told reporters.

UP NEXT

Michigan State travels to Evanston, Ill for a matchup with the Northwestern Wildcats on Wednesday. With the days off, the Spartans should have a fully healthy Travis Trice and a much-recovered Adreian Payne. Tipoff is at 7:00.

Appling Shines as Spartans Rout New Orleans

DEC 28 – Coming off a huge win in Austin, the Spartans (11-1) were definitely at risk of having a letdown game against the New Orleans Privateers (3-5). With Branden Dawson ruled out with a shin injury and Matt Costello still not able to play, this game could have looked similar to the Columbia matchup.

Michigan State was shaky to start, committing six turnovers in the first eight minutes. Gary Harris missed his first four shots, and the team started out 3-10 from the field. The Privateers held a slim 10-9 lead at that point, but it was the last time they would be ahead of the Spartans.

Michigan State proceeded to go on a 17-3 run, capped off by a transition dunk by Keith Appling. New Orleans had no answer for the Spartans’ high-powered attack and simply could not keep up with the number five-ranked team in the nation. The combination of Harris, Appling, and Adreian Payne combined for 63 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists. The Spartans went on to win the game 101-48.

The Spartans out rebounded the Privateers 54-31, but Izzo was still disappointed in Payne’s performance, saying, “Adreian didn’t focus in early.” He continued, “He had seven rebounds, but it should’ve been 15.” The team shot 54.5% from the field, including 13-25 from beyond the arc.

Here are three factors that decided the game:

1. Appling Recovers From Tough Two-Game Stretch

Keith struggled mightily in his last two games for the Spartans. He only scored eight against North Florida and four against Texas, shooting a combined 4-19 in the span. Coach Izzo said that Appling’s wrist has been sore ever since the North Carolina game, where he took a nasty spill and used his wrist to break his fall.

Appling started off hot and never cooled down. He scored seven of Michigan State’s first nine points to kick things off. He led all scorers with 16 points and six dimes at the half. With Harris struggling with his shot early, Appling had to step up in order for the Spartans to pull away from the Privateers.

Keith finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Izzo raved about Appling, calling him the “biggest thrill of the night.” If the Spartans hit more of their open shots in their first half, Appling could’ve easily had a double-double.

2. Spartans Didn’t Miss a Step Without Dawson, Costello

With the combination of coming off a huge road win and two starters not playing, the Spartans could’ve found themselves in big trouble against a pesky New Orleans squad. But Denzel Valentine and other players stepped up and played a huge role. Valentine started in place of Dawson, scoring 10 points and adding 13 rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes on the court.

Alex Gauna also pitched in for MSU, posting six points and five rebounds in only 10 minutes of work. He added a block and an assist, but was limited due to foul trouble. Travis Trice scored five with three assists, but seemed sluggish. According to Coach Izzo, Trice was “sicker than a dog” during the game. Michigan State’s bench scored 22 points on 50% shooting. Coach Izzo is known for squeezing production out of his players, and he certainly did that tonight.

Izzo was pleased with the performance of his bench. He said, “I feel like Mark [Dantonio] with his quarterbacks.” He said he would be comfortable with playing “seven, eight, nine, or ten guys” in the rotation.

3. Spartans Sprinting to B1G Season

Michigan State’s final tune-up game couldn’t have gone any better. The Spartans won by their largest margin of the season and look to get Costello and Dawson back in time for conference play. MSU kicks off the Big Ten season at Penn State on New Year’s Eve. Coach Izzo is not a fan of playing on New Year’s Eve. He said that Penn State is much improved, and “we have our work cut out for us.”

Izzo said in his press conference said that Costello was cleared to play, but wasn’t yet in game shape. He fully expects Matt to play at Penn State.

Branden Dawson, meanwhile, was kicked in the shin during a drill in practice. His leg swelled up but there was no bone damage. Although Dawson didn’t play, he still made a big impact on the game.

Izzo said, “He was a way better coach than I was.”

Dawson is also expected to play against Penn State.

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Payne Has Career Game as Spartans Down Longhorns

DEC 23 – Erwin Center was rocking on Saturday, as the upstart Texas Longhorns hosted number five-ranked Sparty. Rick Barnes’ squad was looking to avenge their 67-56 loss from last year in East Lansing.

Texas surprised many experts this year, starting the season 10-1 with an impressive win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. MSU came into the game shorthanded, with Matt Costello out due to illness and a banged-up Gary Harris coming off the bench.The Longhorns raced out of the gate, taking an early 11-4 lead in the first five minutes. But two quick buckets by Adreian Payne cut the gap to two. With Harris coming off the bench, Denzel Valentine was placed in the starting lineup and Travis Trice was also used heavily in the rotation.

There were questions about how Gary would play on a bum ankle, but his first basket erased those doubts. He exploded off that ankle along the baseline and finished with an acrobatic reverse layup.

MSU was in foul trouble for most of the first half, and Texas capitalized. They pounded the paint and out-rebounded the Spartans 20-18. With Alex Gauna barely seeing the court and Costello not playing, the Spartans were extremely thin in the post.

Texas’ big man Cameron Ridley had his way with whoever tried to guard him, scoring 13 and adding five boards in the first half. A last second shot by the Longhorns gave them a slim 38-36 lead at the half.

Travis Trice provided a much-needed spark off the bench for the Spartans in the first half, scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting from the field. Payne was hot from the outside, scoring 14 in the first frame on 6-7 shooting, to go along with two three-pointers. Harris was more of a distributor in the first, tallying four dimes.

The Spartans’ defense held the Longhorns to 35 percent first half shooting from the field, but Texas got to the charity stripe 13 times, converting on 11.

Adreian Payne continued his dominance in the second half. He was able to back down a much heavier Cameron Ridley on multiple occasions, and Texas was forced to double team him in the post. Texas had foul trouble in the second half, putting MSU in the bonus within the first eight minutes.

Payne picked up his third foul with just over 12 to play in the game, forcing Izzo to put him on the bench. But he returned two minutes later.

With about 10 minutes remaining in the game, MSU began a 14-4 run to take a 68-58 lead with just over five to play. MSU kept getting to the line and were actually making most of their free throws. MSU kept pulling away late, and with just over three minutes left, Valentine went on a fast break, lobbed the ball off the backboard for Dawson to flush down a commanding 13-point lead.

Texas could not cut the lead past 10, and MSU came away with the impressive road victory, 92-78. The Spartans heated up in the second half, scoring 56 points.

Payne had a career game in Austin, finishing with 33 points on 10-13 shooting from the field and 11-12 from the stripe. MSU as a team shot nearly 82 percent from the line. Harris showed that the ankle was not an issue, scoring 19 points with five assists. Dawson was a handful in the paint, with five offensive rebounds and numerous tip-ins. Trice added 11 points off the bench and Valentine had eight and 11.

Texas’ Cameron Ridley had a quiet second half, tallying only four points in the second frame. Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor scored 16 and dished out five assists. The Spartans out rebounded the Longhorns by 10 and held them to 39 percent shooting. The Spartans were efficient from the field, shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field.

The Spartans (10-1) appeared unfazed in their first true road game of the season. MSU has New Orleans up next at the Breslin Center on the 28th.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/12/23/payne-has-career-game-as-spartans-down-longhorns/#sthash.ycY9R0Ss.dpuf

Scouting Report: Virginia Tech Hokies

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Photo by David Defever

NOV 21, 2013 – The Spartans, fresh off their 15-point win over Portland on Monday, head to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday and Saturday as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Their first opponent is the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Let’s take a closer look at the Hokies:

Head Coach: James Johnson (16-20, 2nd season)

Last season: 13-19

This season: 3-1

Key Players: Jarell Eddie, Ben Emelogu

James Johnson’s first season as head coach of the Hokies did not go as well as planned. They finished the season with only 13 wins, including a mid-season nine-game losing streak. Virginia Tech was able to notch one impressive win during the season, defeating #15 Oklahoma State 81-71 in December.

The lone bright spot of this team was senior guard Erick Green. He was a third-team AP All-America selection and led the nation in scoring. He was named ACC Player of the Year and earned First Team All-ACC honors from both the media and coaches.

Now, they have to move on without him. They will depend on Jarell Eddie to be their main scorer. Through four games, he’s averaging over 16 points with around six rebounds per game. The senior averaged just over 12 points per game last year. Freshman Ben Emelogu has been off to a great start in his career, averaging 15.8 points per game. He should present a challenge to Gary Harris on both sides of the ball.

The Hokies are 3-1 on the season, with a bad loss to USC Upstate by one point in the season opener. They also gave up 92 points to Virginia Military Institute on Monday, so they are a bit defensively challenged. This could be a high-scoring, possibly one-sided affair.

Michigan State finally shook off the ice and knocked down some three-pointers against Portland. If they can continue their hot shooting, the Spartans could run away with this one early. Keith Appling nailed all five of his three-point attempts against Portland and could present a challenge for the Hokies defensively.

VT’s main inside presence is 6-11 Trevor Thompson. He leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game but only plays around 18 minutes. Adreian Payne, Alex Gauna and Matt Costello should have no problem on the boards, no matter who starts where.

Prediction: Hokies will hang around for the first half, but the Spartans’ offense is firing on all cylinders. MSU runs away with this one 83-62.

If Michigan State wins, they will face the winner of Oklahoma vs. Seton Hall in the championship game. If they lose, they will face the loser in the consolation game. Friday’s game will be at 9:30 pm on TruTV. If they win, the game on Saturday will also be at 9:30. If they lose, it will be played at 7:00.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/21/scouting-report-virginia-tech-hokies/#sthash.C06lhSIB.dpuf

Appling Leads Spartans Past Pilots

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Photo by David Defever

NOV 19, 2013 – The Spartans squared off against the Portland Pilots on Monday night as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. After surviving a scare against Columbia on Friday, Coach Izzo decided to shake up the starting lineup.  Gauna and Denzel Valentine started in place of Branden Dawson and Matt Costello. Dawson had eight points and seven rebounds against Columbia, and Costello failed to score in only 10 minutes of action.

Both teams traded blows during the entire first half, with Michigan State taking a seven-point lead with just over six minutes to play. Portland then went on a 9-1 run to take the lead with just over three minutes remaining in the half.

Back-and-forth play ensued, with the Spartans never being able to pull away from the Pilots. MSU held on to a slim four-point lead at halftime, largely due to the hot hand of Keith Appling. The senior scored 16 points on 4-4 shooting from beyond the arc, all in the first half.

In the second half, the Spartans finally started to pull away. After back-to-back threes by Gary Harris, MSU took a 10-point lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.

State wouldn’t look back after that, eventually extending their lead to 18 with 3:52 left. Appling continued his hot streak, scoring nine second-half points for a total of 25. The Spartans went on to win the game 82-67.

Appling’s 25 points tied his career high. Izzo said it was “one of the greatest point guard performances in many many years.”

Keith responded well after a disappointing three-point performance against Columbia. Izzo said he thinks Appling is becoming a leader, but just needs to work on communication. He went on to say that Appling is not the same player from last year. Hopefully he can continue his hot streak into conference season.

Adreian Payne scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. With Costello and Gauna playing a combined 19 minutes, Dawson was forced to play much of the game at the power forward position. He was effective on the boards, with a team-high 10 rebounds. Dawson also had a huge impact on the offensive side, with numerous offensive rebounds and tip-ins.

The Spartans need to figure out who is going to anchor the five position. Gauna got the start, but was only used sparingly. Costello was effective when he was on the court, grabbing five rebounds in 10 minutes. It will be interesting to see how Izzo will handle the rotation going forward.

Although the Spartans won by 15, they did not look like the No. 1 team in the nation. Izzo jokingly said that he doesn’t have to worry about peaking in November. The Spartans head to Brooklyn on Friday and Saturday for the Coaches vs. Cancer Championship rounds.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/20/appling-leads-past-pilots/#sthash.B0SQCm8A.dpuf

Scouting Report: Columbia Lions

NOV 14, 2013 –

The Columbia Lions visit the Breslin Center on Friday night at 9 p.m., as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Here is a quick rundown on the Lions as they prepare to take on the Spartans:

Head Coach: Kyle Smith (42-45, fourth season)

Last Season: 12-16

This season: 1-1

Key Players: Grant Mullins, Cory Osetkowski

The Columbia Lions come into this game as heavy underdogs. The Ivy Leaguers have virtually no chance against a soon-to-be number one ranked Michigan State team. Head coach Kyle Smith has done fairly well in his tenure at Columbia. 12-16 may be considered a disappointing season for a Big Ten team. But for a small school like Columbia, they are pleased.

Last year, the Lions were giant killers, knocking off two eventual NCAA tourney teams in Villanova (75-57) and Harvard (78-63). Columbia finished last in the Ivy League with a 4-10 record. However, they gave up the second fewest points in the Ivy League.

Two key players to watch out for are sophomore Grant Mullins and Cory Osetkowski. Mullins is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 18 points per game. He’s shooting at an amazing 69% from the field and is 5-9 from behind the arc. At 6’3”, he will most likely be matched up against Gary Harris. Junior Osetkowski is the tallest player on the Columbia roster at 6’11”. He’s averaging 12.5 points and seven rebounds per game this season. Matt Costello or Adreian Payne will most likely draw this matchup. I don’t expect either player to struggle defensively or on the boards against Osetkowski.

This season, the Lions are 1-1. They came out victorious in their first game against Maryland-Eastern Shore 73-54. Their second game they fell to mighty Manhattan 71-70.

Columbia might seem like a weak matchup for Michigan State, but the Spartans are coming off a huge win over Kentucky. Too often, teams have letdown games after a huge victory, which could be Columbia’s only chance of winning. They are overmatched in every single position and don’t have nearly the depth of MSU. The Spartans proved on Tuesday that they deserve to be the number one team in the nation, and absolutely dominated the Wildcats. The game should have never been as close as it ended up being, which further proves how good MSU really is.

There is no telling what the Spartans will do to the Ivy League cellar-dwellers. This game could get ugly.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/14/scouting-report-columbia-lions/#sthash.zagRW3Nm.dpuf

2013-14 MSU Basketball Season Preview

Nov 8, 2013 – McNeese State will kick off the action for the Spartans on Friday before they head to the Windy City to take on John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. But before the season begins, all of the experts have weighed in on how the Spartans will fare. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say about the green and white.

Bleacher Report recently published a list of the top 100 players in college basketball. They had four out of five of coach Tom Izzo’s starters on the list: Branden Dawson (88), Keith Appling (33), Adreian Payne (22), and Gary Harris (9). They also released their Big Ten predictions, putting MSU at the head of the class and Adreian Payne as the Big Ten Player of the Year. However, they have the Ohio State Buckeyes winning the B1G Tournament in Indy.

ESPN released their annual preseason poll, ranking MSU No. 2, behind Kentucky and in front of defending national champion Louisville. In a separate article, 18 out of 20 experts had the Spartans making the Final Four, with six writers predicting them to cut down the nets in Jerry-World Dallas in April. Three experts said that Tom Izzo would be Coach of the Year, and nobody picked a Spartan for Player of the Year.

CBS Sports released their preseason All-American teams, with Adreian Payne being the only Spartan selected, making the third team. Their top 25 slated Michigan State at No. 3, trading positions with Louisville. Their preseason bracketology gives Michigan State the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, with Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke claiming the other three No. 1 seeds. For their Big Ten preview, the Spartans are again predicted to finish first. Gary Harris and Adreian Payne made the preseason All-Big Ten team, with Harris also picked as the preseason Player of the Year. Izzo was selected as the Coach of the Year as well. Their top 100 players list included Gary Harris (7), Adreian Payne (15), Branden Dawson (56), and Keith Appling (82).

According to CBS Sports, Las Vegas released their odds on several different categories in college basketball. For the National Championship, they gave MSU 9-1 odds, fifth best in the nation. For Player of the Year, they gave Adreian Payne 14-1 odds (ninth best) and gave Gary Harris 50-1 odds (13th best). They gave MSU 2-1 odds to win the Big Ten, tops in the conference.

Overall, everyone seems to be high on the Spartans this year, as expected. The season would be considered a disappointment if Sparty didn’t make the National Championship game. This is one of the deepest Michigan State teams that Izzo has been fortunate enough to coach in years, with four NBA prospects on the team and experience everywhere.

The Spartans will get a chance to prove themselves early in the season, facing No. 1 ranked Kentucky on Tuesday in Chicago. Izzo also scheduled North Carolina (12th in the AP poll, 11th in the ESPN/USA Today poll) on December 4 at home, and unranked Georgetown on Super Bowl Saturday at Madison Square Garden. This matchup might be the most intriguing because of its timing. Most coaches don’t schedule non-conference games in the middle of conference play, but Izzo isn’t most coaches. The Spartans have never been afraid of stiff competition in their non-conference schedule. Just last year, they played Connecticut, Miami, Texas and Kansas all before they started Big Ten play.

Froling’s Prediction: Michigan State will finish first in the Big Ten during the regular season and will win the tournament. Branden Dawson will be the most improved player, Gary Harris will be the Big Ten Player of the Year and finish in the top-five in the voting for Naismith Player of the Year, along with Adreian Payne, but Creighton’s Doug McDermott will take Player of the Year the honors. The Final Four in Dallas will include MSU, Kansas, Duke, and Ohio State, with MSU losing to Kansas in the Championship Game.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/11/08/2013-14-season-preview/#sthash.YTNlVTC0.dpuf