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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Izzo Wants “Every Rule Like the NBA”

It’s no secret that Coach Tom Izzo is not always fond of the NCAA. Izzo made some candid comments during Thursday’s Big Ten Basketball Media Day about the new rule changes coming this year. The main point he stressed was how college basketball should try to be more like the NBA, a point of contention among basketball officials.

“If it were up to me, if I was the Czar for the day, I’d try to get every rule like the NBA, personally,” said Izzo. “I just think that we’d have a better working relationship. It would make sense to me…I think you always hear, ‘Well, you don’t want to be like the NBA.’ Why not? That’s what the kids want. And so I do think — you know, it’s interesting.”

Among the new rule changes this year include a shorter 30-second shot clock, a larger restricted area inside the paint for taking charges and the elimination of the five-second rule.

“The new five-second call, I think, I’m great with because I think it’s a touchy call,” said Izzo. “Is he six feet away, is he four feet away? You know, take those decisions out of the zebras’ hands, and I think it’s going to be better for our game.”

The goal of the shorter shot clock is to hopefully speed up play and increase possessions, which would theoretically lead to more points. Scoring has been declining in recent years and the pace of play is grinding to a crawl. In two of the last three years, scoring dipped below 68 points per game in Division I, the lowest mark since 1982, according to the NCAA.

Another rule change the NCAA is experimenting with is four ten-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves. The womens teams will be playing with it for the first time this year and if it’s successful, the change could come to the men’s game.

“I mean, I love some of the NBA rules, personally,” said Izzo. “And we’ve got them now where you can’t touch anybody out in the perimeter and they can’t touch anybody out in the perimeter. So do I see it going that way? I don’t know. It’s up to other people than me. I said what I’d like, that was just personal opinion.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://impact89fm.org/sports/izzo-wants-every-rule-like-the-nba/

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.

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.

Spartans Survive Crimson, Advance to Sweet Sixteen

MARCH 23 – Harvard almost blew up everybody’s bracket on Saturday night. That is, if your bracket has not already been blown up.

With 17:38 remaining in the game, a Branden Dawson throw-down gave the No. 4 seeded Spartans a 16-point lead and all of the momentum they needed to bury No. 12 Harvard, but the Crimson pulled the upset in the second round, and they had their eyes on the Sweet Sixteen.

A pair of Brandyn Curry three-pointers cut the lead to 11 with 15 minutes to play. After a Gary Harris dunk, Harvard went on an 8-0 run and tied the game in a blink of an eye. On the ensuing MSU possession, Big Shot Gary came down and hit a huge three-pointer from nearly NBA range to stop the run and give the Spartans a 58-55 lead with under nine minutes left.

A few possessions later, a defensive lapse left Harvard’s best shooter, Laurent Rivard, wide open in the corner for an easy three that gave the Crimson a two-point lead. At this point, most Spartan fans were hyperventilating into a brown paper bag.

MSU showed just how much resiliency they had and went on their own 8-0 run, capped off by a Harris three, causing Harvard to call a timeout with 5:34 left, down by six points. Harvard could not cut into the lead for the rest of the game, and Sparty hung on to win 80-73.

Dawson did his best impersonation of Adreian Payne on Saturday night, exploding for 26 points on an incredibly efficient 12-15 shooting. Dawson has been playing extremely well since the start of the Big Ten tournament, averaging 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in that span. His shooting has been phenomenal as well, going just over 62 percent from the field this season.

Harris woke up from his second round slumber to add 18 points and five assists, including a few cold-blooded threes to keep MSU in the game. Payne cooled off from his supernova game on Thursday with only 12 points and four rebounds. The big man was in foul trouble for most of the game.

Up next for Tom Izzo’s squad is the winner of No. 1 Virginia and No. 8 Memphis.

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

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/03/23/spartans-survive-crimson-advance-to-sweet-sixteen/#sthash.tZwmm7FC.dpuf

Payne Drops 41, Spartans Cruise Past Delaware

MARCH 20 – The road to North Texas started out on the right foot Thursday, as Michigan State soundly defeated their first round opponent, No. 13 Delaware.

Adreian Payne played like a man among boys from start to finish, scoring 23 points in the first half alone. MSU muscled their way to a quick 18-point lead with less than six minutes to go in the first half, but Delaware made a run and cut the deficit to 11 by halftime.

The Fightin’ Blue Hens scored the first six points of the second half, slashing the lead to five and causing all MSU fans to actually start to get nervous. But the Adreian Payne show rolled on and snuffed out any chance of an upset. Delaware was vastly undersized and outmuscled as the Spartans dominated the glass. MSU kept building the lead throughout the second half, eventually winning by a 93-78 margin.

Payne set the NCAA tournament record with a 17-17 performance at the charity stripe. He also set a career-high in the tournament with 41 points, which was the most in the Dance by any player since Tayshaun Prince scored 41 against Tulsa in 2002.

Travis Trice played a major role off the bench, scoring 19 points on 7-8 shooting in only 23 minutes. He picked up the scoring load from Keith Appling, who only connected on two shots. Branden Dawson and Gary Harris each scored 10 points, with Dawson pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out four assists. Harris was in foul trouble and only played 25 minutes. He eventually fouled out.

Up next for No. 4 Michigan State is No. 12 Harvard. The Crimson upset No. 5 Cincinnati early on Thursday to move on to the third round. Harvard likely will have a tough time handling Payne down low, so expect the Spartans to move on to the Sweet 16.

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

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/03/22/payne-drops-41-spartans-cruise-past-delaware/#sthash.S1Z6zhmj.dpuf

Top Sleeper Teams for the NCAA Tournament

MAR 19 – Every year during March Madness, as I look over my bracket on the first day of the tournament, I feel pretty confident with my picks. All it takes is about four hours of basketball for my hopes and dreams to be crushed by the ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ knocking off my Goliath that I picked to go to the Final Four. So before you make the mistake of looking past the lower seeds, here are some potential sleeper teams that could ruin everybody’s bracket.

South Region: No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (31-2)

Matchups against No. 5 seeds and No. 12 seeds are always ripe with upsets, and this game is no exception. SFA has not lost a game since November 23 and ran away with the Southland Conference. They have a favorable matchup with VCU, who lost in the Atlantic 10 final to St. Joseph’s. In March, the best teams are not always the ones that move on. The hottest teams have the most success historically and no team is hotter than SFA. The Lumberjacks score nearly 77 points per game and have nine wins by 20 or more points, albeit against subpar competition. However, VCU has one of the toughest defenses in the nation, and it will be SFA’s first real test since they lost to Texas over four months ago.

West Region: No. 6 Baylor Bears (24-11)

After starting 12-1, Baylor imploded and lost seven of their next eight games, dropping them to 2-8 in the Big 12 and putting them on the wrong side of the bubble. Then the Bears caught fire and resurrected their season, finishing on a 10-2 run and losing in the Big 12 championship game to Iowa State. Cory Jefferson is the team leader, averaging 13.5 points with over eight rebounds per game. Sophomore center Isaiah Austin will be a nightmare for anyone who dares to put up a shot at the rim. Standing at 7-1, he guards the basket like a momma bear guards her cubs. Brady Heslip is a deadeye shooter who will make you pay if you give him an inch of space, but struggles defensively. The key to beating Baylor is shooting well from outside to bust their zone defense.

East Region: No. 12 Harvard (26-4)

The Crimson are not new to the sleeper role. Last year they upset No. 3 New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and Tommy Amaker’s squad is even better this year. They have six players that average more than nine points per game and they have the 13th best defense in the nation. Their opponent, No. 5 Cincinnati, struggles mightily on offense, ranking No. 237 in the nation in scoring. But the Bearcats’ defense is even better than Harvard’s, coming in at No. 6 in the nation. Harvard has an RPI of 46 and although they do not have any RPI top-50 wins, they did defeat Green Bay by 12 and only lost to Connecticut by five. Watch out for the Crimson to ruin your bracket, again.

Midwest Region: No. 12 North Carolina State Wolfpack (22-13)

When talking about the Wolfpack, the one name you must remember is T.J. Warren. The ACC Player of the Year leads NC State in points and rebounds. In their last five games, Warren is averaging 28 points per game, including a 42-point outburst against Boston College. He is one of the best players in the NCAA tournament and put in a strong showing in the First Four matchup with Xavier. NC State’s first matchup is a soft No. 5 seed in Saint Louis. They stumbled in the final stretch of their season, losing four of their last five games. The Wolfpack had to scratch and claw their way into March Madness by winning four games in a row, including beating Syracuse in the ACC tournament. Now they are poised to pull the upset once again.

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

Photo: NCAA

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/03/19/opinion-top-sleeper-teams-in-the-ncaa-tournament/#sthash.wQFojPNo.dpuf

First Round Predictions for the B1G Tournament

MARCH 11 – The regular season is finally over, and the fun can officially begin. March college basketball is perhaps the most entertaining basketball in the world, and we are right in the middle of it. The Big Ten tourney kicks off on Thursday in Indianapolis, Ind. so here is a prediction of every game in the first round.

Game 1 – No. 8 Indiana vs. No. 9 Illinois (Thursday, 12:00 p.m.)

The Hoosiers (17-14, 7-11) split the season series with the Fighting Illini (18-13, 7-11). Illinois took the first matchup in Champaign, Ill. 83-80 in overtime on New Year’s Eve, and then Indiana won the next game by 10 in Bloomington, Ind. Indiana is 2-3 in its last five games, with wins over Iowa and Ohio State. Illinois is 4-1 in their last five with a huge road win at Michigan State.

These two teams are having disappointing seasons, but Indiana is playing better basketball right now despite their recent record. They took Michigan to the wire in Ann Arbor, and their young talent is playing extremely well. The Hoosiers will win 64-59. The winner plays No. 1 Michigan on Friday at noon.

Game 2 – No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Purdue (Thursday, 2:25 p.m.)

Ohio State (23-8, 10-8) finished the season on a high note, squeaking a win out against MSU on Sunday. Although they can be offensively challenged at times, their defense will make up for any scoring shortcomings. OSU leads the B1G in scoring defense, while Purdue is dead last. Everyone’s favorite Buckeye Aaron Craft can shut down anyone he is matched up with and can facilitate the offense without needing to score.

Purdue (15-16, 5-13) struggled mightily at times this season and lost their last six games to finish the year. Their defense is porous, and they rank No. 131 in the nation in scoring. OSU wins this one 74-60. The winner plays No. 4 Nebraska on Friday at 2:25 pm.

Game 3 – No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 10 Penn State (Thursday, 6:30 p.m.)

These two teams met for the final regular season game of the year on Sunday, with the Golden Gophers (19-12, 8-10) coming out victorious 81-63 in Minnesota. They also won the first meeting in Happy Valley by three points in early January. Minnesota recently beat Iowa by six at home, but have not won back-to-back games since the beginning of January.

Penn State (15-16, 6-12) has had consistency issues as well, sweeping the season series with Ohio State and beating Nebraska in January, but falling to Illinois twice and opening the B1G season with a six-game losing streak. Minnesota is in Joe Lunardi’s last four out in his latest Bracketology, so they need this game more than anyone in the conference.

The Gophers will win for a third time against the Nittany Lions 75-59. The winner will face No. 2 Wisconsin on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Game 4 – No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 11 Northwestern (Thursday, 8:55 p.m.)

This is the game to watch for MSU fans. The winner goes on to face MSU on Friday at 8:55 p.m.

Iowa (20-11, 9-9) has stumbled to the finish line, losing five of their last six games including a disappointing three-point loss at home to Illinois. The Hawkeyes climbed as high as No. 10 in the AP poll earlier this season, but their final defeat knocked them out of the rankings. Roy Devyn Marble has been the star of the team, leading them in scoring with 17 points per game.

The Spartans played Iowa twice this year, earning a hard-fought overtime win with the help of “The Legend” Russell Byrd at Iowa in the first game, and winning more convincingly on senior night last Thursday. Marble is averaging 22.5 points in the two contests against MSU this year. Aaron White is another leader on the Hawkeyes squad, averaging 13.3 points per night to go along with nearly seven rebounds. If Iowa wants to go far in the tournament, it will be on Marble’s back.

Northwestern (13-18, 6-12) fulfilled their usual role of cellar dwellers this season, finishing second to last in the conference. They endured two lengthy losing streaks of four and seven games and they score at an abysmal rate. Their only marquee win was at Wisconsin near the end of January, but other than that there has not been much for Wildcat fans to cheer about.

MSU faced off against the Wildcats twice, winning both games by 14 and 15 points, respectively. Northwestern had a tough time handling Adreian Payne down low in the second game, allowing him to score 20 points to compliment 14 rebounds.

Iowa will win this game 65-62 and move on to face the Spartans for a third time this season, where they will lose for the third time this season.

The full tournament bracket can be seen here.

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


– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/03/11/first-round-predictions-for-the-b1g-tournament/#sthash.bB1KpRpV.dpuf

Big Ten Title Hopes Fading Fast

FEB 26 – With Sunday’s 79-70 loss at the hands of the Wolverines, Michigan State is virtually eliminated from one seed contention for the tournament. The Spartans dropped five spots to No. 18 in both polls this week while Michigan moved up four places to No. 16. With only three games remaining in the season, MSU must focus on their own play, not what everyone is doing around them.

In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology, he has the Spartans down to a three seed. With only three games left in the regular season, MSU needs to focus on winning out for any chance at a Big Ten regular season title. The Spartans are one game back in the loss column from Michigan, who has a much easier end to the regular season.

Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana finish out U-M’s season, who have RPI’s of 122, 47, 83 and 96 respectively. This means that Minnesota is the only team out of the four expected to make the March tournament. Michigan is playing its best basketball of the season and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile, MSU’s remaining schedule of Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State have RPI’s of 83, 33 and 17 respectively. This does not bode well for MSU’s chances at a comeback.

MSU beat the Illini in Champaign, Ill. 78-62 in January, beat Iowa on the road 71-69 in overtime and almost collapsed at home to Ohio State, eventually winning by four in overtime. Normally, the experts would say that the Illinois game on Saturday is going to be a cakewalk for the Spartans, but Nebraska proved last Sunday that there are no cakewalks in the Big Ten.

The good news for Tom Izzo is that Branden Dawson is expected to return to action against Illinois for the first time in nine games. The big question is how long will it take him to return to form. Will he jell with his teammates rights away like Adreian Payne? Or will the recovery come slower, as it is with Keith Appling? Dawson leads the team in rebounds and most of the time is the most athletic player on the court.

Earlier in the year, I wrote an article on how Dawson could be the team’s X-factor if they wanted any shot at a title. Later, I wrote another article about how he has been disappointing this year. In retrospect, the latter article seems a little shortsighted. The saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” applies perfectly here, and so does this song. He filled a role that no one on the team can quite like him. He makes big plays when he wants to and out-rebounds guys five inches taller than him.

Even though Dawson is a stonemason outside of 10 feet, he is a great complement to Payne, who can draw defenses away from the post and free up Dawson. It is basically like having a more skilled Matt Costello in the game.

Just because one player is back does not guarantee that MSU will suddenly transform into the best team in the nation. The addition of a “new” player to the rotation could just throw a wrench into things and State could drop two out of their final three games. Or it could be like a shot of adrenaline into the team’s collective arm and fuel a Big Ten Tournament title run.

As of right now, no one knows what is going to happen, but it should be fun regardless.

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


– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/02/26/big-ten-title-hopes-fading-fast/#sthash.BBxZnZRP.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