Izzone Roundtable: Season Preview

The men’s basketball season officially starts today, and the crew from Impact Izzone is here to get you ready. Blake Froling, Ryan Cole, Davey Segal and David Manion give their predictions on everything from team MVP to how the Spartans will fare in March Madness. Let the speculation begin!

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Impact Izzone: S3 E2

The season is right around the corner, and Blake Froling and Ryan Cole are here to get you ready. The two recap MSU basketball media day and talk about the new renovations coming to the Breslin Center, predict the Big Ten season and Ryan reveals himself as a closet Michigan fan… but not really.

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Impact Izzone: S3 E1

Blake Froling is back for yet another year of Impact Izzone. Our beloved leader, Andrew Hayes, has moved on to a better place, so Froling and three newbies, Ryan Cole, David Manion and Davey Segal, team up to talk about Midnight Madness, the stellar recruiting class and more.

Check out the podcast at Impact Sports here:

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BREAKING: 4-Star Point Guard Cassius Winston Commits to MSU

Cassius Winston, a four-star point guard from University of Detroit Jesuit, just committed to Michigan State for the 2016 season. He is the third recruit from the class of 2016, joining four-star power forward Nick Ward and five-star combo guard Josh Langford.

Winston narrowed his list to MSU, Pittsburgh and Stanford, and included the University of Michigan for most of the recruiting process.

Winston is rated as the No. 5 point guard in the nation and the second-best player in Michigan, according to 247Sports. Although slightly undersized at just a shade over six-foot, Winston is an aggressive scorer and a leader on the court. He should fit the Izzo mold quite nicely. With his signing, MSU could have the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation.

But wait, there’s more!

MSU now has two more possible recruits left, Miles Bridges and Josh Jackson, who are both five-star players. Bridges will announce Oct. 3 and is deciding mainly between the Spartans and Kentucky. Jackson, the No. 1 player in the country, is being pursued by Arizona, Kansas and Maryland, among others.

ARTICLE FROM: http://impact89fm.org/sports/breaking-4-star-pg-commits-to-msu/

Hot Spartans Demolish Ramblers in Home Opener

East Lansing was frigid on Friday night for the home opener, but nothing could cool down the Spartans. The Loyola (IL) Ramblers were victims of an offensive onslaught led by Marvin Clark, Jr. and Branden Dawson. MSU was firing on all cylinders and rolled to an easy 87-52 win.

From opening tip to the final buzzer, MSU dominated the paint. The undersized Ramblers struggled to guard the taller, bulkier Spartans. Matt Costello posted a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Gavin Schilling added eight points and three rebounds down low.

“Today we (Costello and Schilling) both went at it and it opened things up for everybody else,” Costello said. “And that builds our confidence and our guards’ confidence to throw it to us.”

The Spartans outscored Loyola 46-14 in the paint and outrebounded the Ramblers 40-23.

Michigan State regained their shooting stroke after chucking up a cringe-worthy 5-20 against Duke from three-point land. They shot 63 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown against the Ramblers. However, free throws continued to be the Achilles heel for MSU, as they only shot 46 percent from the charity stripe.

MSU opened the game on a 15-2 run and never looked back from there. Loyola could never get into an offensive rhythm, mostly due to a much-improved Spartan defense. The Ramblers only shot 34.5 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-PT range.

Loyola did not reach double digits until 4:35 remaining in the first half and could only muster 14 points in the first 20 minutes. That total was the fewest number of points scored by an MSU opponent at halftime since Arkansas-Pine Bluff scored 12 in 2012.

“That was painful,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said in the post game press conference.

The Spartans played unselfish basketball and their passes were crisp. They assisted on 27 of 36 buckets, with Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn dishing out seven apiece.

Turnovers plagued MSU in their loss to Duke and they still remained an issue against the lesser Ramblers. The Spartans gave the ball away 15 times, including three from Valentine. He had five against the Blue Devils and struggled with the same problem last year.

Freshman swingman Clark, Jr. was the surprise of the night for Coach Izzo. The lefty exploded for a career-high 15 points while hitting 3-4 threes. He showed some ridiculous upside with that silky jumper, which surprises many opposing defenses.

“I still don’t think people respect me as much, but that’s fine with me,” Clark, Jr. said.

Dawson scored 15 points and ripped down seven boards, and Trice added 13 points of his own. The Spartans take on the Santa Clara Broncos on Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center as part of the Orlando Classic.

Okafor, Blue Devils Too Much for Spartans

When Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski get together, you know it is going to be a battle.

Coach K’s ridiculously talented Blue Devils defeated Coach Izzo’s young Spartans in the Champions Classic Tuesday night, 81-71.

Duke came armed with the best recruiting class in the nation, featuring the crown jewel of the group, Jahlil Okafor. He was the top-ranked recruit in the 2014 class and is considered the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft this summer.

The Spartans came into this showdown shorthanded, with freshman Javon Bess out with a foot injury and sophomore Alvin Ellis III out with a sprained ankle.

With an already thin Spartan frontcourt, Okafor was able to show the world he could live up to the hype. He opened the game scoring eight points in five minutes, finishing with 10 and three boards at the half.

The Blue Devils pulled away to a 10-point lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the first, but MSU roared back. A Bryn Forbes three-pointer cut the lead to three with just over four minutes remaining. That was as close as the Spartans would cut it, as Duke eventually widened the gap to 40-33 at the half.

The Blue Devils shot very efficiently from the floor in the first, going 56 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep. Despite being undersized, MSU held a commanding advantage on the offensive boards, 8-2.

The second half started with both teams trading blows and staying neck and neck. With Duke up 59-51, Okafor picked up his fourth foul with nine minutes remaining. MSU also found themselves in foul trouble, with Denzel Valentine and Marvin Clark Jr. picking up their fourth fouls before the eight-minute mark. Sparty failed to capitalize on the absence of Okafor, and Duke was actually able to extend their lead to 13 at one point.

Trading baskets with Duke in the last five minutes was not good enough for Michigan State to make any kind of comeback, and they eventually fell 81-71.

The Blue Devil effort was led by senior Quinn Cook, who went off for 19 points and dished out six assists. Freshman Tyus Jones also shined down the stretch, scoring all 17 of his points in the second half. Man-child Okafor dominated the Spartans’ bigs in the paint, going for 17 points and pulling down five rebounds.

The Spartans were as cold as your mother-in-law from three-point range, finishing 5-20 behind the stripe. Branden Dawson made up for his lackluster performance against Navy with a stellar 18 points and nine rebounds. Travis Trice picked up right where he left off Friday, scoring 15 and adding eight dimes and six boards. Valentine also chipped in 13 points in the losing effort.

Coach Izzo has to be impressed with the effort his squad showed against the superior Blue Devils. Duke just had too much talent on the court for MSU to try to defend. Michigan State heads back home for a Friday night matchup with Loyola (IL.) at 7 p.m.

Previewing Key Non-Conference Matchups for Men’s Basketball

Before Big Ten conference play begins on December 30 with a matchup against Maryland, MSU faces a brutal non-conference schedule that will test head coach Tom Izzo’s young team right away. Sure, there are some cupcakes along the way with home games against Loyola (Chicago), Arkansas-Pine Bluff and The Citadel, but there are some grisly showdowns on the horizon.

Here is a preview of the biggest games of the non-conference schedule.

Tuesday, Nov. 18 – No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (Champions Classic, Indianapolis)

In just the second game of the new season, the Spartans travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for a showdown with Coach K and the No. 4 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Led by a star-studded recruiting class featuring five-star recruits Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, Duke will give the youthful Spartans all they can handle inside and out.

Okafor, who was named to the preseason All-America team, will be an absolute monster to try to defend down low. He has two inches and 25 pounds on MSU’s biggest player, Matt Costello.

The Blue Devils have always had the Spartans’ number in past matchups. Since 1979, MSU is just 1-8 against Duke, which is their worst winning percentage against any team (minimum two games, according to sports reference). They also have been outscored by an average of 6.9 points in those games, which is second-worst for MSU against any team.

This game will certainly be a shootout, but the Spartans are definitely facing an uphill battle.

Prediction: 82-70 Duke.

Sunday, Nov. 30 – No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks (Orlando Classic)

This matchup is not a guarantee, as it would be the championship game of the Orlando Classic, but these two teams are the most likely to survive and advance.

Bill Self may have lost two lottery pick players in Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but the Jayhawks reloaded quite nicely. Kansas signed the No. 1 power forward in the class of 2014 (ESPN) in Cliff Alexander and the No. 4 small forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. Kansas also returns 6-foot-8 forward Perry Ellis, who was second on the team in both points and rebounds per game last year.

The Kansas-Michigan State matchup has been extremely tight over the years, with the Spartans holding the series lead 4-3 (sports reference). Only two points separate the teams in their combined seven games. The defensively challenged Spartans will have their hands full with all the offensive weapons of the Jayhawks.

Coach Izzo might be forced to sit transfer guard Bryn Forbes at times because of his defensive struggles, which would mean the Spartans lose one of their best shooters.

The key to MSU’s success could hinge on how their freshmen respond to the pressure of such a big game early in the season.

Prediction: 71-65 Kansas.

Wednesday, Dec. 3 – at Notre Dame (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)

Just three days after a challenging tournament in Orlando, the Spartans once again hit the road, this time traveling to South Bend, Indiana. The Irish may not be ranked, but on the road anything can go wrong, and MSU might be suffering from a Jayhawk hangover.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer from a year ago, Jerian Grant, was suspended for academic reasons after playing just 12 games. He averaged 19 points and 6.2 assists per game in those 12 appearances and looks to make up for lost time in his last season. Before his suspension, the Irish went 8-4, but after they lost Grant they only won seven of their remaining 20 games.

This is a very winnable matchup for the Spartans. The young players will already be battle tested and MSU will be looking for a marquee win to keep them in the top 25. This game is the perfect opportunity to right the ship and get back on track as they head into an easy stretch of games before conference play.

Prediction: 68-60 Michigan State.

Izzo Rocks Michigan State Madness

On an unseasonably warm October night, Spartan fans from around the state packed in to the Breslin Center to witness the spectacle that is Michigan State Madness (formerly known as Midnight Madness). Lines wrapped all the way around the stadium, one even stretching from the Magic Johnson statue to Shaw Lane.

Coach Tom Izzo has built quite the reputation for flashy entrances, and spectators were clueless as to what he might do this time. In recent years, Izzo rode in on a horse, came in dressed as Iron Man and even had a little help from a real-life Spartan, Gerard Butler. Last year, he faked out everyone in the building (myself included) when he pretended to get shot out of a giant cannon.

Even the radio broadcast team of Matt Steigenga and former coach Gus Ganakas said they had no idea how Coach Izzo would come out.

“I honestly have no idea. Maybe he’ll be a part of a cover band or something,” said Steigenga, who pointed to a drum set and amplifiers behind one of the baskets.

“They don’t tell me anything,” replied Ganakas.

Spectators were entertained before the event with the replaying of last year’s football game against Michigan on the video board above the court. Players from both the men’s and women’s teams were available to sign posters, balls, shirts and other MSU paraphernalia for eager Spartan fans.

The MSU marching band kicked off Michigan State Madness with an always-stellar rendition of the fight song. After the drumline pounded my ears into submission, it was time for one of my favorite events: musical chairs. This event always gives me the opportunity to harshly judge the lack of skill exhibited by the contestants while giving my self-esteem a healthy boost.

The women’s team was introduced next and displayed some impressive dance moves. Then came time for head coach Suzy Merchant’s grand entrance. It was somewhat disappointing, as she appeared on a stage dressed as Beyonce and proceeded to dance with the cheer team. But her outfit was spot on, and she defied the odds by pulling off complicated dance moves while wearing incredibly high heels.

As usual, Coach Izzo blew everyone away. Fans were treated to a video of Izzo and his family talking about what he would do if he were not a coach. They then “flashed back” to 1974 to a dorm room with Izzo and Steve Mariucci. Finally a Kiss cover band accompanied by a fully dressed Izzo and an accordion played “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City”.

What followed was a confusing and poorly organized game featuring a current men’s and women’s player, a former men’s player and a fan. No one even knew who won the first game, but we did learn that Drew Neitzel can still outshoot everyone in the building and Branden Dawson has better form on his half court shots than his 15-foot jumpers.

The 20-minute scrimmage was begging me to jump to wild conclusions about the team and the newcomers, but when the band starts to play during the game, all credibility goes out the window. Defense was spotty and no one was afraid to shoot. The only conclusion I am certain of: Keenan Wetzel’s hair is already in midseason form.

The conclusion of another Michigan State Madness means that another Spartan basketball season is upon us, and hope springs eternal. The first preseason game is on November 3 against “The Legend” Russell Byrd and The Masters College at 7 p.m. at the Breslin Center.

Where Are They Now? Spartans in the NBA: Alan Anderson

Alan Anderson’s path to the NBA is a perfect example of how perseverance pays off.

The 6-foot-6, 220 pound guard was known as one of the best ball handlers on Coach Izzo’s teams from 2002-2005. Anderson led the Spartans to the Final Four in his senior season in 2005, averaging a team-high 13.6 points per game while adding 5.4 rebounds. He was a two-time team MVP in 2003 and 2005 and also won MSU’s John E. Benington Defensive Player Award in his freshman and senior seasons.

Anderson did not hear his name called during the 2005 NBA Draft, but was signed two months later by the Charlotte Bobcats. In his rookie season, he averaged just over five points per game in 36 appearances, while shooting a stellar 41 percent from beyond the arc. Less than a month into his sophomore campaign in the NBA, the Bobcats waived him from the team.

After he went unsigned in free agency, Anderson spent the next four months tearing up the NBA Development League (NBADL) with the Tulsa 66ers. He averaged 15.8 points per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field and over 45 percent from long range. Anderson even earned a spot on the NBADL All-Star team before being re-signed by the Bobcats for the final two months of the season.

An unsuccessful free agency in 2007 forced Anderson to pursue a professional career overseas, where he spent the next four years playing Euroleague ball for four teams. In that span he averaged 13.7 points per game and also led his teams to five different championships. In 2010, Anderson had a brief stint with the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBADL, where he averaged over 21 points per game before returning to Europe.

The years of hard work in Europe and the NBADL finally paid off for Anderson in 2012. He was signed to a 10-day contract with the Toronto Raptors, who were impressed by his level of play and signed him for the remainder of the season. He was able to crack the starting lineup in 12 of the 17 games he appeared in, averaging nearly 10 points per game in 27 minutes of time on the floor.

Anderson’s return to the NBA was successful and he has stayed ever since. The Raptors re-signed him in July of 2012 to a one-year contract and he played in 65 games for Toronto. The former Spartan posted a solid 10.2 points per game, mostly off the bench, while shooting a phenomenal 85.7 percent from the charity stripe.

The following season, Anderson took his talents to Brooklyn, where he appeared in all but five contests and played a prominent role off the bench during their playoff run.

This past offseason, Anderson was signed to a two-year, $3 million contract with the Nets. For the first time in his career, Anderson finally has some job security, and it only took nine years, 12 teams and a couple continents to get there.

Opinion: Lack of Star Power Nothing New for MSU

On the surface, it appears as though Tom Izzo has a recruiting crisis on his hands.

The Spartans missed out on yet another top-tier recruit in guard Jalen Brunson, who committed to Villanova University earlier in September. Brunson is the latest in a long line of missed five-star recruits in the past several years (recruiting rankings based on espn.com).

Maybe the reason for the sudden panic is the increased scrutiny and publicity of the recruiting process. Anyone who is anyone has a press conference these days to announce where they will play basketball for the foreseeable future. The Spartan hat has been left on the table on several occasions while the country watched (see Jabari Parker), and people are beginning to doubt the almighty Izzo.

A lack of star power is nothing new to Izzo. In the last two years, Michigan State has offered scholarships to nine five-star recruits, all of whom chose other schools. In fact, Izzo has only landed six five-star recruits since 2003 (Gary Harris in 2012, Branden Dawson in 2011, Adreian Payne in 2010, Delvon Roe in 2008, Marquise Gray in 2004 and Shannon Brown in 2003).

Coach Izzo has always been much better at developing players into superstars rather than wining and dining the flashy high school talent. Looking back at the most successful players of the past 10 years at MSU, virtually none of them were five-star recruits. Draymond Green arrived in East Lansing as a four-star recruit and so did Kalin Lucas in 2007. Keith Appling was overlooked for the five-star label, but he is currently on an NBA roster.

Izzo’s coaching style might not be conducive to superstars. He does not give preferential treatment and keeps players on a short leash discipline-wise (see Kenny Kaminski). Most of the players in the MSU program are built to last, which has been crucial to the team’s sustained success over the years. One-and-dones are not a part of Izzo’s ideology.

Now with Harris, Appling and Payne all departed, the cabinet seems a bit empty for this season. But this just gives Izzo the opportunity to groom and mold his young players so they can take the reins and lead the Spartans to the Promised Land. So while things seem less than ideal right now, do not fret, Izzo’s got it under control.