Coach: Tom Izzo (17 seasons at Michigan State 412-169)
2011-12: Record 29-8 overall, 13-5 in Big Ten (Tie 1st)
Starters Returning (3) Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson
Preseason Tournament: Champions Classic
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Texas, at Miami
Transfer Out: Dwaun Anderson (Wagner)
Last year was another successful season for Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans as they made it to the sweet 16. That being said Izzo expects better with championships and final fours. The Spartans lose all everything Draymond Green, he did everything for the Spartans. The Spartans return 3 starters from last year’s team and a couple of key bench players. Izzo also brings in another top recruiting class including one superstar. One thing for sure we know Izzo will coach this to its best ability.
Leading the Spartans in the backcourt will be point guard Keith Appling (11.4 ppg). Appling is a speedy quick player that excels at getting to the rim. He is also an excellent defender and passer. The only thing he does not do well is shot the ball. Joining Appling in the backcourt will be five star freshman Gary Harris. Harris can do it all he can shot the three and drive to the hole. The thing that sticks out about Harris is he is already a great defender because of his length and athleticism. The top option off the bench will be Travis Trice (4.5 ppg). He is their returning leader in three point shots made; he can also run the point guard duties. Other top options off the bench will be Brandan Kearney (1.2 ppg) and another highly though of freshman Denzel Valentine. Also providing depth will be Russell Byrd (1.5 ppg) who has battled injuries last couple of years.
The Spartans will have plenty of beef and experience inside. Leading the way here is small forward Branden Dawson (8.4 ppg). He started 31 games as a freshman and was second in the team in rebounding. He tore his ACL in the final regular season game and he was missed in the big dance. Dawson gets in done on offense by attacking the rim; he has great strength and athletic ability. Filling out the frontcourt will be Adreian Payne (7 ppg) and Derrick Nix (8.1 ppg). With Green gone both players scoring averages and rebounding numbers should go up. Payne is more of an athlete and shot blocker. Nix is a bigger body that create spaces in the paint because he lacks athletic ability. Both players can finish around the basket but can’t do much away from it. Depth could be a concern here with the injury to freshman Kenny Kaminski. The really only two other bodies here will be Alex Gauna (1.8 ppg) and freshman Matt Costello.
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