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!

Listen to the podcast on Impact Sports:

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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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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/

ESPN and CBSSports High on the Spartans’ Future

Last Friday, Michigan State landed coveted 4-star point guard Cassius Winston. His signing catapulted MSU’s 2016 recruiting class straight to the top of the rankings, according to 247Sports. Now it’s time to get more familiar with the University of Detroit Jesuit product.

ESPN’s Reggie Rankin broke down Winston’s game and gave a scout’s view of how he’ll fit into the Tom Izzo system (Insider required to read full article). Rankin said “Winston will provide Izzo with a point guard who can push the ball on the break and can settle things down and execute the halfcourt offense, in addition to being ready to call his own number to score and create when the play breaks down, or at end-of-clock and end-of-game situations.”

Winston will provide the Spartans with a completely different look at point guard. While sophomore Tum Tum Nairn is clearly a pass-first guard, Winston looks to score more. “Winston’s presence will give the offense two primary ball handlers, and two guards who can apply pressure and create turnovers, leading to fast-break opportunities,” said Rankin in the article.

Rankin compared Winston’s game to that of NBA guards Shane Larkin of the Brooklyn Nets and Aaron Brooks of the Chicago Bulls, who both are known more for their scoring. “Izzo has once again done a great job of filling his roster needs with quality young prospects who fit his style of play, and are loaded with talent and potential.”

This glowing review of Winston and MSU’s recruiting class is the latest in a string of positive reports on the future of Spartan basketball. CBSSports’ Gary Parrish ranked Izzo’s squad as the No. 9 ranked school that’s most likely to have success over the next five years. His ranking was based on coaching stability, young players already in the program and the strength of the recruiting classes. He said of Coach Izzo: “The next time Tom Izzo has a bad team will be the first time in roughly 20 years. He’s just about as reliable as they come.”

ARTICLE FROM: http://impact89fm.org/sports/espn-and-cbssports-high-on-the-spartans-future/

Lineup Shuffle Sparks Spartans

FEB 20

Tum Tum Nairn can thank the Illini for his new starting job.

After a debilitating loss to Illinois at the Breslin on February 7, changes needed to be made. With Travis Trice struggling mightily and the offense AWOL, Coach Izzo needed to do something to get his team out of a funk before it was too late.

“Probably not the most disappointed I’ve been, but I’m the maddest I’ve been,” said Izzo after the loss. “I can’t stomach that; I can’t stomach what we went through today, so I understand if people aren’t able to stomach it. We’ll regroup.”

And regroup they did. Tum Tum was inserted into the starting lineup the following game in Evanston and the offense immediately perked up. The Spartans crushed Northwestern 68-44, hitting 13 3-pointers, including four from a rejuvenated Trice. When Tum Tum was running the point, the offense ran much quicker and more efficiently. Nairn is one of the fastest guards in the country and he pushes the ball 100 miles per hour up the court.

In the epic showdown with the Buckeyes (enter Valentine pun here), Izzo stuck with Tum Tum in the starting lineup against a taller and heavier D’Angelo Russell. In the opening possession, Russell backed down Tum Tum with ease, but after that he played tough and scrappy defense. Nairn hit all three of his shots, pulled down five rebounds and dished four assists. Trice only had nine points, but converted a huge driving layup to put MSU up three with 1:16 left.

The cherry on top came in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, when the Spartans steamrolled Michigan 80-67. Trice once again came off the bench and had one of his best performances of the season. The senior went off for 22 points and seven assists. Now MSU is peaking at exactly the right time.

Five games remain on the schedule, including a rematch against Illinois in Champaign on Sunday. If the Spartans want to solidify their chances of dancing in March, they must win this game. Spartan fans, it is ok to take your finger off the panic button (I think I already broke mine) but this team is not out of the woods yet. March is a long ways away.

LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2015/02/20/lineup-shuffle-sparks-spartans/

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.

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.