Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MSU falls to IU, B1G title outright in doubt

MSU falls to IU, 70-55 (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Doubt. Everyone can relate to the feeling when doubt enters ones mind. It can make you unfocused and unmotivated. Doubt can especially hurt you the most in the face of adversity.

Tonight the Michigan State Spartans doubted their own ability for the first time this year. The Indiana Hoosiers gave MSU their first loss by double digits since November 11th, 70-55. MSU become the 3rd top 5 team to lose in Bloomington this season. Michigan State knew they were in for a battle playing at Assembly Hall. There was a lot at stake for both teams. For Michigan State the game had the most meaning in that if they had won it would have clinched the B1G regular season championship outright and potentially locked up a #1 seed.

Draymond Green carried the team as much as he could all game long. Green essentially put a stamp on the B1G Player of the Year award in this loss scoring 28 points and grabbing 8 boards. The depth and contributions that everyone has come to expect from the Spartans supporting cast was non-existent. Not a single Spartan beside Green scored in double figures. The Hoosiers had 5 players score in double figures, lead by Cody Zeller who poured in 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting. The poor shooting from the field (39%) and from the free throw line (10 of 17) caused the Spartans to face an uphill battle all game long. They could not get over the hump as they traded baskets with the Hoosiers when they tried to mount a come back in the 2nd half when they got the lead down to 6.

Keith Appling who torched Indiana in East Lansing back in January put in a pathetic performance. Scoring 6 points on six shots in 32 minutes. This is unacceptable for a player of his talent. Appling may be getting caught up in trying to be a perfect distributing point guard when he really should be accepting his role as a team leader who must guide this Spartans team in adverse situations. That starts with aggressiveness on the offensive end during bad spots in games. His play should compliment Green's inside presence. Appling has yet to learn to drive to the basket consistently and get to the line the way Kalin Lucas used to do when MSU needed points in close games. It is almost tournament time and his inconsistent play is starting to become a concern.

Adreian Payne was ineffective in limited minutes, scoring 2 points.  Derrick Nix seemed to lose his confidence in the first half when he missed shot after shot from close range, finished 2 of 7 for 5 points. Branden Dawson seemed to let his poor defensive play against Victor Oladipo, effect his offense where he was less aggressive going 1 of 3 from the field for 3 points total. When the inside play of Payne, Nix and Dawson is inefficient the shooting percentages suffers which leads to lower scoring outputs as the Spartans who average 73 points a game could only muster 55.

The game was essentially lost in the first half when the Spartans could not respond in one of the rowdiest environments they've played in all year. Indiana did not play particularly special in the first half. It was Michigan State who missed buckets from close range, turned the ball over and committed bad defense fouls. Credit Indiana for coming out strong against the Spartans to built a 14 point lead at half that eventually lead them to a 15 point victory.

Spartan Coach Tom Izzo put it best after the game. "We didn't defend them, we didn't rebound, we didn't execute," Izzo said after losing to IU head coach Tom Crean, his ex-assistant, for the first time in seven games. "I think Indiana deserves a lot of credit for putting us in that position. They did a great job of moving the ball and just driving at us, and we didn't respond very well."

Now the pressure builds as Sunday approaches. Ohio State comes to the Breslin Center looking for revenge, redemption and their reputation back. If there was ever a time to get over loss fast look no further then this Sunday in East Lansing. It will be Senior Day at the Breslin Center for Draymond Green and Austin Thornton. Should the Spartans deliver they will have gained all the ground they lost tonight for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. On the flip side, a loss would give them a split B1G championship AND plenty of 'doubt' going in to the B1G tournament.

Big Ten Conference Standings

#5 Michigan State13-424-6
#11 Ohio State11-523-6
#16 Michigan11-521-8
#15 Wisconsin11-622-8
#20 Indiana10-723-7
Penn State4-1212-17

Spartans v. Hoosiers a Vegas preview

Appling & Co. are one win from the outright B1G title (Photo: US Presswire)
The Michigan State Spartans take their final B1G road trip to Bloomington, IN where they will face off with the Indiana Hoosiers at Branch McCracken Court at Assembly Hall. Game time is scheduled for 7:00pm EST and will be televised on ESPN.

A win gives Michigan State the outright B1G regular season championship. For Indiana, a win would be a huge boost to their RPI number. The Hoosier have defeated three top 15 ranked teams at home this year, including Kentucky and Ohio State. 

The Spartans are a 3-point favorites versus the Hoosiers, the over/under is set at 139.

Michigan State was a 62-34 winner in their last game at home against Nebraska. They covered the 17-point spread as favorites.

Indiana won on the road, 69-50 result against Minnesota on February 26. They covered in that game as a 2-point underdog.

Michigan State at a glance: (SU = Straight Up, ATS = Against the Spread)
Team record: 24-5 SU, 19-8 ATS
Current streak: won 7 straight games
 Recent Michigan State trends:
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of last 5 games on the road.
MSU is 7-3 SU in their last 10 games on the road and 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games on the road.
The Spartans are 3-8 SU in their last 11 games when playing on the road against Indiana.
When playing on Tuesday are 8-2
Before playing Ohio State are 6-4
After playing Nebraska are 1-0
After a win are 8-2
Next up for MSU:
Michigan State at home vs. Ohio State, Sunday, March 4

Monday, February 27, 2012

MSU up to #5 in polls and now holds 2nd best RPI

After a great 2-0 week and a day after MSU claimed their 3rd B1G title in 4 years, the Spartans moved up to # 5 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.

In the latest ESPN bracketology projection the Spartans are still projected as a #1 seed. However, this week ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has MSU moved from the Midwest bracket to the West bracket. See full projections here: http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/bracketology. Lunardi is also projecting 7 teams from the B1G conference in the field.

The biggest jump in either the polls or rankings for MSU this week is the RPI ranking. According to CBSSports.com RPI rankings, MSU has the 2nd best RPI in the country, only Syracuse is higher. The strength of schedule for the Spartans is now ranked number 1, meaning no one is playing and beating tougher opponents this year then MSU. 

The latest CBSSports.com RPI rankings 1 -34 are below.
B1G teams in bold, MSU non-conference opponents in italics. 

2Michigan State2150.667610.6113
5North Carolina2440.6510120.5855
7Ohio State2350.6439140.5838
11Southern Miss2050.6348390.5651
15Wichita State2340.6279560.5563
19Florida State1970.6194120.5855
23Saint Louis2150.6093870.5377
27Colorado State1690.605180.5895
29New Mexico2150.6037810.5399
30Seton Hall1990.5997250.5744
33St. Mary's2150.59621090.5252
34San Diego State1860.5953680.5471

For the entire RPI rankings go to: http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/rankings/rpi/index1

Sunday, February 26, 2012

MSU clinches 13th B1G Championship

After a surprising upset of Ohio State by Wisconsin today in Columbus, the Michigan State Spartans clinched a share of the B1G regular-season title. MSU has a overall record of 23-5, which includes 13-3 conference record. If MSU wins one of their last two games they will clinch the B1G Championship outright. That is exactly on the mind of Coach Tom Izzo when he was asked about his 7th B1G championship.
"We’re excited and proud of what’s been accomplished so far, but it’s miniscule compared to what we have a chance to accomplish down the road. And we’re going to keep working for our ultimate goals, which as we reassess, are now to win the Big Ten outright, to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year, to go into the Big Ten Tournament feeling good about ourselves, to try to get the highest seed we can get which will help us in the NCAA Tournament."

Up next: Michigan State @ Indiana, Tuesday, 7:00PM  ESPN


Big Ten Conference Standings

#6 Michigan State13-324-5
#9 Ohio State11-523-6
#13 Michigan11-521-8
#15 Wisconsin10-621-8
#24 Indiana9-722-7
Penn State4-1212-17

Spartans hold strong at #3 in latest ESPN BPI

College Basketball Power Index (BPI) 

NCAA BPI Ratings

Created by the ESPN Stats & Information group, the College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a team rating that accounts for all team scores in every Division I game, whether they were at home, on the road, or on a neutral court, whether they won, the pace of the game, the strength of their opponent, and whether any of their top five players (by minutes per game) was missing.

Rk Team Conference D-I W-L BPI Net Pts vs Avg BPI SOS
1KentuckySEC28-1 92.219.777
2SyracuseBig East29-1 90.418.045
3Michigan StateBig Ten23-5 89.016.826
4Ohio StateBig Ten23-5 88.416.265
5KansasBig 1224-5 87.515.616
6North CarolinaACC25-4 87.315.457
7DukeACC25-4 86.614.94
8Wichita StateMissouri Valley25-4 84.113.373
9MissouriBig 1225-4 83.813.271
10BaylorBig 1223-5 82.512.48
11LouisvilleBig East21-7 81.812.015
12FloridaSEC22-7 81.812.061
13MarquetteBig East24-5 81.712.039
14MemphisC-USA21-8 81.411.822
15Saint LouisA-1021-6 81.111.7111
16WisconsinBig Ten20-8 81.011.641
17CaliforniaPac-1223-6 80.411.390
18GeorgetownBig East20-6 80.311.228
19IndianaBig Ten21-7 80.011.144
20GonzagaWCC23-5 79.010.696
21AlabamaSEC19-9 78.710.518
22VanderbiltSEC20-9 78.610.420
23Kansas StateBig 1219-9 78.310.39
24TexasBig 1218-11 77.910.16
25UNLVMountain West22-6 77.69.974
26VirginiaACC21-7 77.69.985
27TempleA-1022-6 77.69.931
28CreightonMissouri Valley25-5 77.59.982
29New MexicoMountain West21-6 76.29.3116
30MichiganBig Ten20-8 76.19.313
31Florida StateACC19-8 75.99.237
32Iowa StateBig 1221-8 75.89.134
33ArizonaPac-1221-9 75.38.955
34ConnecticutBig East17-11 74.88.71
35Murray StateOhio Valley25-1 74.78.7187

For entire ESPN BPI rankings go to: ESPN BPI

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spartan Defense, one win from B1G Championship

Payne's opening throw down! (Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/MSUathletics)

A sloppy start to the game ended with the Michigan State Spartans eventually dominating the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 62-34 for their 7th straight win. MSU (24-5, 13-3 B1G) remains undefeated at home and now holds a game and half lead over Ohio State for 1st place in the B1G.  

Going in to half time the Spartans carried only an 8 point lead. There were plenty of missed shots and turnovers that prevented MSU from taking complete control. However, the Spartans came out hot in the 2nd half hitting their first 9 shots and playing great man to man defense holding Nebraska to only 4 points in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half.  Leading by as many as 31 in the 2nd half MSU never looked back. Nebraska was with out one of their best players, Bo Spencer who suffered an ankle injury in the final seconds of the 1st half.

After struggling to shoot the ball on Wednesday against Minnesota the Spartans got back to their high percentage shooting (67%) and strong rebounding (+15 rebound margin). The defense was lights out. Holding Nebraska to their lowest season output and 29% shooting from the field. Holding Nebraska to 34 points now surpasses the 40 points MSU held Eastern Michigan to as the lowest opponent scoring output.

Draymond Green was again the catalyst for the win reaching a double double for the 17 time this season. He shot well going 7 of 11 for 20 points which included 3 of 6 from 3PT. Green also made history when he grabbed his game-high 10th rebound to become the 4th player in Michigan State Spartans Basketball history to collect 1,000 career rebounds. Day-Day leads the country with the most 20 point, 10 rebound games (6). Game after game Green is separating himself from the pack as B1G Player of the Year. He is also going to get National Player of the Year consideration when it's all said and done. 

The scoring tonight was a total team effort. However, it would be nice to see some players develop in to more consistent scorers. Keith Appling needs to get his shot to fall down more consistently from the outside as the NCAA tournament approaches. Branden Dawson, Andreian Payne and Nix were all able to make plays on offense and defense, but all must learn to be more assertive looking for their own shots. Dawson in particular passed up shot attempts after good drives to the basket.

The solid play of Austin Thornton (9pts, 5rebs) and Brandon Wood (7pts, 4rebs) continues. Tom Izzo may have stumbled upon a great line-up change when he made the switch 2 weeks ago. Being able to bring Wood and Derrick Nix off the bench gives the Spartans more punch with a 2nd unit that can now push other teams starters early and often.

The ankle injury of Travis Trice is opening up minutes for freshman Brandan Kearney and red shirt freshman Russell Byrd. It was a positive for the young players to get meaningful minutes, it only adds to the great depth that gives MSU a championship edge. Hopefully, Trice will be able to go against Indiana on Tuesday in Bloomington. His spot in the rotation as back up point guard is missed and his 3PT shooting will be needed going forward. 
(Photo courtesy: www.facebook.com/MSUathletics)

MSU can wrap up a share of the B1G title with a win at Indiana. It would be their 3rd title in 4 years and Tom Izzo's 7th overall. After the game Izzo expressed how much a 7th title this year would mean to him and the program.
"It would probably be the most-earned (Big Ten title) of all of them other than maybe the first one," Izzo said. "Not that we came out of nowhere, but we weren't a ranked team and deservedly so.
"It would mean a lot to me and I think it would mean a lot to them. Our schedule has been tough. We're embarking on the fifth game in 13 days and it's going to be hard for us to play down there. If we can survive, we will have earned it. The problem is we have two of the tougher games that we've had all year left."
The Spartans can hang a 7th banner with a win at the 'Hall' of five banners on Tuesday. 

Big Ten Conference Standings

#6 Michigan State13-324-5
#9 Ohio State11-423-5
#13 Michigan11-521-8
#15 Wisconsin9-620-8
#24 Indiana8-721-7
Penn State4-1212-17

Spartans v. Cornhuskers a Vegas preview

(AP Photo/Dave Weaver)
The Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Michigan State Spartans square off today at Breslin Center 8pm EST. The game is televised on the BTN. 

Michigan State is a 18.5 point favorite going in this game with the over/under at 125.

Nebraska lost their last game, 83-65 against Purdue on February 22. They failed to cover in that game as a 10.5-point underdog.
Last game Michigan State was a 66-61 winner on the road against Minnesota. The Spartans failed to cover the 5.5-point spread as favorites.
Michigan State at a glance: (SU = Straight Up, ATS = Against the Spread)
Team record: 23-5 SU, 18-8 ATS
Current streak: won 6 straight games.
Recent Michigan State trends:
MSU is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
MSU is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 9 of last 11 Spartan games at home
When playing on Saturday MSU is 7-3
Before playing Indiana MSU is 5-5 and after playing Minnesota are 7-3
After a win are 8-2

For an in-depth look at the numbers go to: http://www.spartanstate.com/p/spartan-daily-lines_11.html
Next up:
Michigan State at Indiana, Tuesday, February 28

Thursday, February 23, 2012

MSU up to #3 in latest ESPN BPI Ranking

College Basketball Power Index (BPI) 

NCAA BPI Ratings

Created by the ESPN Stats & Information group, the College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a team rating that accounts for all team scores in every Division I game, whether they were at home, on the road, or on a neutral court, whether they won, the pace of the game, the strength of their opponent, and whether any of their top five players (by minutes per game) was missing.

Rk Team Conference D-I W-L BPI Net Pts vs Avg BPI SOS
1KentuckySEC27-1 92.019.577
2SyracuseBig East28-1 90.418.052
3Michigan StateBig Ten22-5 88.716.514
4Ohio StateBig Ten23-5 88.416.262
5KansasBig 1223-5 87.415.524
6North CarolinaACC24-4 87.015.263
7DukeACC23-4 86.214.76
8FloridaSEC22-6 83.913.260
9Wichita StateMissouri Valley24-4 83.613.071
10MissouriBig 1225-3 83.613.082
11Saint LouisA-1021-5 83.412.998
12BaylorBig 1222-5 82.212.28
13LouisvilleBig East21-6 82.212.220
14MarquetteBig East23-5 81.812.041
15WisconsinBig Ten20-7 81.712.039
16MemphisC-USA20-8 80.711.516
17CaliforniaPac-1222-6 80.611.475
18IndianaBig Ten21-7 80.511.338
19GeorgetownBig East19-6 79.510.923
20GonzagaWCC21-5 79.110.689
21New MexicoMountain West21-5 78.910.6113
22Kansas StateBig 1219-8 78.810.511
23VanderbiltSEC20-8 78.610.430
24TempleA-1022-5 78.410.333
25TexasBig 1217-11 78.210.24
26CreightonMissouri Valley24-5 77.810.083
27AlabamaSEC17-9 77.710.012
28UNLVMountain West21-6 77.710.070
29MichiganBig Ten20-7 77.59.913
30VirginiaACC21-6 77.49.999

For entire ESPN BPI rankings go to: ESPN BPI

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spartans grind, drop Minnesota for 6th straight

AP Photo courtesy of mlive.com
As the final seconds ticked off the clock a huge exhale was released by the entire Spartan Nation. Michigan State came away with a road victory, 66-61 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers giving them a season sweep and a 6th straight win.

The Spartans got the Gophers best shot. The game went back and forth in the first half. Minnesota was able to go to a zone look which slowed the Spartan offense down. Lucky for MSU a Brandon Wood lay-up gave them a 31-30 half time lead. Draymond Green was great from the outside hitting four 3-pointers in the first half. However, in the second half Green & Co. went cold. There were a number of short range misses and missed free throws that doomed MSU. Minnesota made just enough baskets to hang on to a single digit lead for most of the 2nd half. 

Michigan State buckled down with great defense in the closing minutes, coming up with great steals on defense. They forced Minnesota in to 14 turnovers overall which allowed the Spartans to get extra possessions. Getting in to the bonus early was a key factor for MSU as well. Being able to rally from 9 down in the closing minutes shows how gritty this bunch can be.

Keith Appling and Brandon Wood were the biggest reasons for MSU leaving Minneapolis smiling. Both went for 13 points and made huge buckets to get their team back in the game.

Wood was especially aggressive on offense and defense. He made hard drives to the basket for lay ups and face guarded the Gophers best shooter, Austin Hollins.  Wood also came up with a big-time steal that cut the lead to 2 with less then 4 minutes to go. Appling went from 'goat' to hero as fast as he drives to the basket. After two bad plays on defense where he fouled jump shooters (one from 3 pt!) Appling came up big going 4 of 4 from the line inside of a minute, including the go ahead free throws.

Green didn't have his best shooting game but he came up big late also. Green drew fouls and got to the line with his shot not falling. He also put in the game tying bucket finishing with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

The turnovers were especially low for most of the game for MSU. This is a great sign that the team is being patient and not letting a road environment effect how they play. Minnesota did rebounded MSU 31-22, but could not get out of their own way committing late turnovers.

Michigan State proved that they will be getting everyone's best shot this year, but also showed teams that they better be perfect if they want to put an 'L' on the Spartans. This team knows how to overcome adverse game situations because they are so fundamentally sound on defense and offense.

Tonight's game was going to be tough. The Spartans came out of it still in first place in the B1G conference, that's all anyone can ask. Expect a more focused effort on Saturday at home against Nebraska.

Big Ten Conference Standings

#6 Michigan State12-323-5
#9 Ohio State11-423-5
#13 Michigan11-421-7
#15 Wisconsin9-520-7
#24 Indiana8-721-7
Penn State4-1112-16

Spartans v. Golden Gophers a Vegas preview

Photo courtesy of www.sportsbetonline.com
The Michigan State Spartans (22-5, 11-3 B1G) and the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-10, 5-9 B1G) face off today at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The game starts at 8:30pm EST and will be televised on BTN.

The Spartans are 6 point favorite with the over/under at 128 points.

Last game Michigan State beat Purdue on the road 76-62. They covered in that game as a 4.5-point favorite.
Minnesota lost its last outing, a 64-53 result against Northwestern on February 18th. They failed to cover in that game as a 3.5-point underdog.
Michigan State at a glance: (SU = Straight Up, ATS - Against the Spread)
Team record: 22-5 SU, 18-7 ATS
Current streak: won 5 straight games.
Recent Michigan State trends:
-The Spartans are 6-1 SU in their last 7 games when playing on the road against Minnesota.
-They are also 6-3 SU in its last 9 games on the road.
-When playing on Wednesday MSU is 7-3.
-After playing Purdue MSU is 6-4.
-After a win the Spartans are 8-2.
Next up:
Michigan State home to Nebraska, Saturday, February 25

For an in-depth look at the numbers go to: the Spartan Daily Lines page.

All in with the Spartan Front Court

A look at the recent the play of Derrick Nix (Jr. 6'9"- 270lb), Branden Dawson (Fr. 6'6"- 220lb), Adreian Payne (So. 6'10"- 240lb) and Draymond Green (Sr. 6'7"- 230lb).

Michigan State has one of the most devastating front courts in college basketball. Together they average 39 points and 23 rebounds. However, it's not pure offensive numbers that make them tough. There's more to their build then just stats. This Spartan front court production has to be witnessed to be seen. During the current 5-game winning streak these players have physically and mentally wore down opponents with big defensive stops, offensive rebounding and explosive buckets at the rim. 

Nix coming off the bench gives Michigan State a big time advantage when it comes to the center position. They are able to run starting center, Payne at the opposing team's center for 6 to 7 minutes hard and then come with a fresh Nix off the bench to bang at them some more. The front court toughness also comes from the relentless attacking of the rim that Dawson and Green present on the defensive and offensive glass. One common theme from the current 5-game winning streak is that Michigan State's front court is simply wearing opponents out. The double digit margin victories and opponent's average field percentage of 34% during the past 5 games are further evidence of this.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Derrick Nix is becoming a force. The last two games he has been the bench for MSU scoring 12 points each time out. Nix is not just a offensive factor. His defense and rebounding make up a major part of the Spartan toughness. Coming off the bench may have played a factor in early season inconsistency. Regardless, if the offensive numbers aren't there every night he still has brings out tons of effort every game out. The past three games Nix is starting to define himself as a Michigan State leader with his play. His defense against Ohio State star forward Jared Sullinger was superb, the offensive moves he's displayed against Wisconsin and Purdue are making Spartan fans believers.

Nix's nimble feet and soft touch reminds me of a 'Zach Randolph' type of game. Which is an efficient low to ground game with a soft touch at the rim. Nix still has plenty of work to go before he's compared to other great Spartan BIGS, but the maturity that he's shown this year buying in to the program is making me go all in with him. Nix averages about 8 points and 4 rebounds a game. The minutes will go up if he can stand it.

AP Photo
Branden Dawson is really coming in his own as a freshman. When he came in to East Lansing, there were many who compared him to a 'Raymar Morgan' type of player. He definitely has the same caliber of skill as Morgan, but there seems to be more fire or 'swag' with Dawson, maybe it's the Gary, IN in him that makes him great. Most games this season Dawson has looked like the most athletic player on the court from either team. His athleticism is displayed with his fierce play at the rim typified with explosive dunks. He is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds his past 5 games. Against Purdue, Dawson went off with a double-double of his own, 15 points and 11 rebounds. Watching Dawson on the offensive glass is like watching him play against 7th graders. He just has more bounce then anyone in the B1G off the floor. Scary thing is he's still just a freshman and very raw.

AP Photo
Andreian Payne's coming out party was in his home state in Columbus against Ohio State. AP came out that game with such a purpose hitting a 18 foot corner jumper the first possession, swish! It was the first 2 points of a career-high 15 for the game. Payne outplayed his AAU teammate Jared Sullinger, whom he had many practices against. Payne had 12 points prior to the Ohio State game against Penn State. Although Payne has struggled to remain consistent in his offensive production he like Nix has learned how to effect the game in other ways with blocks and rebounds. Payne has a NBA body in the making and a nice stoke from the outside that will develop in time. He has been a game changer in many games with his thunderous put back dunks and alley-opp throw downs.

Terry Gilliam/Associated Press
Draymond Green gives MSU the ultimate advantage. A true inside-out threat from the 3 or 4 positions on the floor. Green can handle the ball up top, on the wing and on the block. Along with his skill set, there's the immeasurable aspects of his game like leadership and high basketball IQ make him so valuable to this Spartan team. One asset that Green's game has always had was his passing ability. He displayed it when first got to MSU and he has only gotten better as a facilitator this year (100 assists, 2nd on team). Being able to guard the other team's best player is something Green has become accustom to. Defensively, he leads the Spartans in steals (37) and is 2nd in blocked shots (25). Green is averaging around 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists during the current 5-game winning streak. He has reached a double-double in 4 of the past 5 games to give him total of 15 for the season which leads the B1G. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spartan Target Grows Bigger

Photo courtesy of MSU Spartan Facebook
As March Madness approaches desperation will take over many programs in college basketball. Time is running out for teams looking to boost their resumes with big-time RPI wins. Michigan State has four B1G games remaining on the schedule, two at home against Nebraska and Ohio State and two on the road against Minnesota and Indiana. This week the Spartans will battle with the Golden Gophers on Wednesday and the Cornhuskers on Saturday.

With three out of the four teams looking to make the tournament, the Spartans will get everyone's best shot. For Minnesota, who lays squarely on the bubble, desperately needs to win on Wednesday. The Spartans face another road test against a desperate team, the same scenario that they faced last Sunday at Purdue. The Golden Gophers are a athletic bunch lead by junior forward, Rodney Williams. The Spartans handled them easily in East Lansing 4 weeks ago 68-52. Minnesota has their next 3 games against ranked opponents so opportunities are ahead, but a home win against a top 10 team is what Tubby Smith will be gunning for. 

Nebraska's season has been over for a few weeks now, but they will get an opportunity to make their season as they try to become the first team to get a win out of the Breslin Center. This game has 'trap' written all over it especially with a huge road game looming against Indiana three days later. If the Spartans are focused enough this can one of those games where Coach Tom Izzo can get younger players in his rotation much need minutes going in to March. 

Indiana represents the last true road test of the year. The Spartans have ripped off wins at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue. A win at Indiana would clinch a share of the B1G regular season championship, which of course depends on the Spartans winning both games this week. The Hoosiers are starving for a big-time win. They have not beaten a ranked opponent since January 5th against Michigan. Early this year Assembly Hall was were ranked teams went to die. However, since losing to Minnesota at home it has lost a little bit of it's luster. When the Spartans roll in to town on February 28th expect that environment to be rocking. IU players and fans alike will be looking for some kind of legitimacy late in the season. A win over Michigan State would represent the first victory over Tom Izzo for IU head coach Tom Creen. Expect a fighting effort and raucous crowd in Bloomington.

March 4, 2012 - Senior Day at the Breslin Center. The last home game of the year might end up being the biggest. As the Spartans somewhat exposed and spoiled the Ohio States Buckeyes B1G title hopes in Columbus, the Buckeyes will be looking to extract revenge. How much motivation does this Buckeye team need coming in? Everyone in the country is calling them the 2nd or 3rd best team in conference. Michigan State has stolen their thunder, snapped their 39-home game winning streak and possible took the #1 seed that the Buckeyes felt was reserved for them. Th Buckeyes are still just as talented as they were all year. Jared Sullinger will be looking for redemption after the Spartan BIGS walled him up and forced him in to 10 turnovers. This is a dangerous game for MSU in that a lost could two things: a split B1G championship or worst-case scenario a 2nd or 3rd place conference finish. For OSU, a win at MSU puts them back in the discussion as one of the elite teams going in to the NCAA tournament. 

What would a 4-0 finish to the season mean for MSU?


Targets don't get any bigger then this! (Photo credit from Nola.com)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day-Day & Mateen: Two Perfect Spartans

Cleaves doing the 2000 Championship Dance (AP Photo)

Green following the path Cleaves set back in 2000 (AP Photo)
Draymond "Day-Day" Green is becoming a Michigan State legend. His star has never been brighter and his game has never looked better especially during the current Spartan 5-game winning streak. Green is averaging around 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists the past 5 games. For the season he has had 15 double-doubles which leads the B1G. Green's versatility makes him one of the most valuable players in the country.

Tom Izzo recently called Green the "perfect Spartan" and made bold comparisons to Mateen Cleaves, who is Izzo greatest player past or present. From where Green started out as a freshman to the beginning of this year those comparisons may have been unthinkable.

Leadership-wise Green has always been vocal. Even in his freshman year when the Spartans were blown out by the North Carolina Tar Heels in the National Championship game he was one of the first in the locker room to make a declaration of redemption for the team next season. As an underclassman he was never able to display the kind of fiery leadership that Izzo covets. This year being a senior has allowed Green to blossom both as a player and leader.

The Detroit Free Press reported on a great exchange between coach and player. During Thursday practice before the Saturday Ohio State game Green sensed that the team was getting fatigued. They had played or practiced for 10 consecutive days and Izzo had been working them hard in practice. Green wanted Izzo to dial down practice on Friday, the day before MSU played Ohio State in Columbus. Green promised Izzo he would personally police the team to ensure they were ready for the game. By Saturday morning at the game-day walk-through Izzo saw a focus in his team that he hadn't seen all year.
"I told my team that after the game (that it) might have been won the day before and the day of as much as it was won during," Izzo said. "On a definitive moment (before) a big game ... that's what makes him (Green) special to me," said Izzo, "that's what puts him in another league."
Twelve years earlier Mateen Cleaves had made the same request to Izzo before the National Championship game against Florida. Cleaves had sensed the team was worn down from the national semi-final game and promised Izzo that if he canceled one of two practices before the game he would personally guarantee that the team would be ready to go. We all know how that ended up working out. Green and Cleaves seemed to have gained a different kind of trust. Trust from their coaches that allowed them to speak and be heard. Both were able to get more out of their own ability and their teammates ability then any one who has come from Izzo's program.

This year Green must have had tremendous pressure on his shoulders to carry this young and inexperienced team. It took him a few weeks this season to learn to play within himself and how to utilize his teammates best. Green has truly made himself in to an inside-out player averaging 15 points and leading the B1G in rebounding with almost 11 a game. His inside play has had a great effect on that way Branden Dawson, Andreian Payne and Derrick Nix approach the game. All three have developed a nasty streak around the rim and that is from the example and opportunity that Green gives them during practices and games.

Cleaves, a 3-time All-American, faced the same kind of pressures after he led MSU to the 1999 Final Four. He suffered a foot injury which kept him out of the early part of the season. Cleaves eventually worked himself back in to shape and played at a high enough level to inspire his teammates to elevate their own play.

The Spartan basketball team has exceeded expectations this year, but has remained the same hard-working team that came together over the summer. Anyone can make a team with potential competitive, but it takes great leaders to make one that is elite.

Mateen Cleaves had a taste of success before he led his team to the promised land. Green has already been to two Final Fours and is looking for a trip to a third. Bringing home another National Championship is now the only thing that separates "two perfect Spartans."

MSU #6 in polls and rises to #2 in RPI

Dawson's dunk-of-the-year! (AP Photo)
After a dominate performance against the Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday the Spartans (22-5) rose to #6 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. Michigan State sits alone atop the B1G standings at 11-3.

The latest ESPN bracketology projection by Joe Lunardi has the Spartans in as a #1 seed in the West bracket. MSU is up from a #2 seed last week which placed them in the Midwest bracket. http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/bracketology

The rise to a projected #1 seed is due to the Spartans RPI number and strength of schedule. Last week MSU has the 4th best RPI number. After two double digits wins, one at home against #17 Wisconsin and on the road against Purdue the Spartans looked the every bit of the part of a top rated squad. The win against Wisconsin gave the Spartans a 6th win over a top 25 team, the most in college basketball. B1G teams projected in the NCAA tournament field are down to 7, last week 8 teams were projected to make the field. 

The latest RPI rankings by CBSSports.com are below. B1G teams in bold and MSU non-conference opponents in italics.

2Michigan State2150.668020.6119
6North Carolina2340.6478120.5844
7Ohio State2250.6417140.5826
11Southern Miss2050.6349380.5653
15Wichita State2340.6283540.5570
17Florida State1970.6200110.5863
22Saint Louis2150.6116750.5408
26New Mexico2140.6060870.5362
30Colorado State1590.5976130.5836
32St. Mary's2150.59641080.5256
33San Diego State1860.5963650.5485
34Murray State2310.59452070.4788

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MSU still #4 in latest ESPN BPI Ranking

College Basketball Power Index (BPI)

NCAA BPI Ratings By: ESPN Stats & Information Group

Created by ESPN the College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a team rating that accounts for all team scores in every Division I game, whether they were at home, on the road, or on a neutral court, whether they won, the pace of the game, the strength of their opponent, and whether any of their top five players (by minutes per game) was missing.

Rk Team Conference D-I W-L BPI Net Pts vs Avg BPI SOS
1KentuckySEC25-1 91.719.381
2SyracuseBig East26-1 90.618.149
3Ohio StateBig Ten22-4 89.016.767
4Michigan StateBig Ten19-5 87.815.818
5KansasBig 1221-5 87.215.411
6North CarolinaACC22-4 86.414.860
7DukeACC21-4 86.014.52
8MissouriBig 1224-2 84.613.792
9Saint LouisA-1020-5 83.012.787
10FloridaSEC20-6 82.912.750
11Wichita StateMissouri Valley22-4 82.812.664
12WisconsinBig Ten19-6 82.512.451
13LouisvilleBig East20-6 82.112.220
14BaylorBig 1221-4 81.912.113
15IndianaBig Ten20-6 81.912.126
16GeorgetownBig East18-5 81.712.022
17MemphisC-USA19-7 81.511.99
18MarquetteBig East21-5 80.411.336
19TexasBig 1217-9 80.411.36
20GonzagaWCC20-4 80.411.372
21CaliforniaPac-1220-6 79.811.086
22New MexicoMountain West20-4 79.310.8117
23UNLVMountain West20-5 78.710.574
24CreightonMissouri Valley22-5 78.610.484
25TempleA-1020-5 77.610.030

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spartans and WON, sweep rivals back to Madison

Appling rips off 20 against Taylor (11) (Photo by: MSU Spartans Facebook)
This season just keeps on getting better and better.

Michigan State outworked Wisconsin for a 69-55 win giving them the regular season sweep. Their first since they beat the Badgers 4 times in 2000. "That win says a lot," Draymond Green said. "Wisconsin's not an easy team to play. It's not the most talented team Bo Ryan has had, but it's still a very good one." The game did not have the same drama as the two football games or previous match up in Madison as the Spartans were in control for much of the game. 

The win represents the 6th win over a ranked opponent. The most in college basketball this season. Not Kentucky, not Syracuse and not Duke or UNC but Michigan State holds the most wins over top 25 teams. Feels like the Spartans have hit a nice gear and are just rolling opponents. This team looked even better tonight then they did against the Buckeyes and that's a hard performance to match. After a slow start that had MSU down 8-12, the Spartans went on a 14-0 run that included many transition scoring opportunities. The 12 point lead at half was increased to 20 in the 2nd half. The Badgers did fight back late in the game, but the deficit was too large to overcome.

The home crowd roared after every defensive stop and hard drive to basket. "The crowd was awesome," Izzo said. "I told our players at halftime, 'You're bringing this crowd back like old times." The Spartans (21-5) are now 16-0 at home. MSU is tied atop the B1G with Ohio State at 10-3.

Did we get a taste of what the Final Four run will look like? Draymond Green and Keith Appling going off for 20 points each makes this Spartan team unbeatable. Green along with his 20 points grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. Appling seems to have gotten something back, great things can only happen if he hits grove again. A big part of the win like last game was the dominant play of one of the Spartan BIGS. Derrick Nix was the bench for Tom Izzo. Nix scored 12 of the total 14 bench points. The Badgers could only muster 7 total.

The Spartans offense and defense has been lights out in this now 4 game winning streak. Tonight they shot 52% from the field and stifled the Badgers offense to 34%. Badger star PG Jordan Taylor was held to 3 of 13 shooting. Interestingly enough the Badgers did out rebound the Spartans 33-27. However, the aggressive plays to the basket on offense lead to a plethora of game breaking 'and ones.'

Izzo has got this group focused. They are playing like a very veteran group, far from the team that started out this year. At this point no team in the B1G can match up with the Spartans. This Sunday at Purdue expect another tough effort from the Boilers, but Izzo is on a mission and Draymond Green is on a mission. Expecting a victory every time out is the only way.

Speaking of Green. He is the B1G Player of the Year! It's over, no debate! No one is playing better or means more to their team. Pencil him in for All-American as well.  

All Day-Day Long   (Photo by: MSU Spartans Facebook)

Big Ten Conference Standings

#6 Ohio State10-322-4
#8 Michigan State10-321-5
#19 Michigan9-419-7
#17 Wisconsin8-519-7
#20 Indiana8-620-6
Penn State4-1012-15

Spartans v. Badgers a Vegas preview

The Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan State Spartans square off in a rematch at the Breslin Center tonight 7:00 PM EST on ESPN.

Currently the Spartans are listed as 5.5 to 6-point favorites with the over/under at 111 and 116 depending on which sports book you are using.  
Last week Wisconsin was a 68-61 winner on the road against Minnesota. They covered the 1.5-point spread as favorites.
Michigan State was a 58-48 winner in its last match on the road against Ohio State. They covered the 8.5-point spread as underdogs.
Michigan State at a glance: (SU = Straight Up, ATS = Against the Spread)
Team record: 20-5 SU, 16-7 ATS
Current streak: won 3 straight games.
Current Trends:
MSU is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home and is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Wisconsin. The Spartans are 20-3 SU in its last 23 games.
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of last 5 games.
When playing on Thursday the Spartans are 8-2.
Before playing Purdue the Spartans are 6-4 and after playing Ohio State are 7-3.
After a win MSU is 8-2.
Next game:
Michigan State at Purdue, Sunday, February 19

For a in-depth look at the numbers go to the Spartans Daily Lines page.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

B1G Championship WILL be decided March 4th

Photo by K. Fowler/Lansing State Journal
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Expect the re-match between the Spartans and Buckeyes in East Lansing to decide the B1G Championship AND secure a number one seed in the NCAA tournament for the winner.

The victory over Ohio State gives Michigan State a step up towards the B1G Championship. With 6 games to go there are plenty of challenges the last three weeks of the season. Three home games left against Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State and three on the road against Purdue, Minnesota, and Indiana. The Spartans will play three ranked teams including rematches with Wisconsin and Ohio State at home and on the road against Indiana.

The Spartans are allowed to maybe slip up once and even that would probably just be good enough to be tied with the Buckeyes, who face a slightly more difficult finish to the schedule. Obviously winning out is the goal. Beating the Buckeyes in Columbus is great, but a even greater threat to the B1G Championship hopes is losing the last home game of the year.

Last night the Buckeyes bounced back on the road against a desperate Minnesota team with 78-68 win. Leaving them with five games left, three on the road against Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State and two at home against Illinois and Wisconsin. OSU is much more talented then their remaining opponents so it's likely they win out going in to their rematch against the Spartans.

Tom Izzo spoke about his team's focus after the victory at Ohio State. "This stat isn't on here, (but) where the game was won was in (Friday's) practice -- because I did something I never do: I almost walked through," said Izzo, "and that was odd for me. I listened to my players. And Draymond Green took care of the hotel, the airplane and the (actual) walk-through (Saturday) morning was the best I've had since Louisville (2009) in Indianapolis. It was just focused."

The Spartans will have to continue to keep their focus on one game at a time. It is very easy for a young team to get caught up in potential rewards and accomplishments. It will be interesting to see if the intensity the Spartans brought to Columbus last Saturday can carry them through the rest of the conference schedule.

Expect no "off" games this week for the Spartans. The challenge begins again this Thursday at home where Wisconsin will be looking for payback from last January's "uncontroversial" loss in Madison. Then MSU hits the road on Sunday as they travel to West Lafayette for a rematch with Purdue.

Current Big Ten Standings

#6 Ohio State10-3--22-4
#8 Michigan State9-3.520-5
#19 Michigan9-4119-7
#17 Wisconsin8-41.519-6
#20 Indiana7-6319-6
Penn State3-10711-15