November 06, 2012
Top 25 Team Previews
Michigan State Spartan
2011-12 Record: 29-8 (13-5 in Big Ten)
Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Branden Dawson: Al Goldis/AP
2011-12 Stats
Scoring 71.6 5
Defense 59.3 2
FG% .477 2
FT% .700 8
3FG% .360 6
Michigan State is ramping up its depth, quickness and versatility for life after Draymond Green. When Tom Izzo is equipped in these areas, his Spartans usually make a run at the Final Four. Michigan State has the horsepower to make that type of run in 2013, but this year's go-to scorers are unproven.Izzo believes leadership is the biggest question mark in the wake of Green's graduation.

Branden Dawson will be back near 100 percent after missing the end of last season with a torn ACL. A terrific rebounder with breakneck speed and power in transition, Dawson is hoping to shoot better after reworking his mechanics.

Wide-bodied center Derrick Nix is the team's only senior. In the best shape of his career, Nix will be among the strongest players in the Big Ten. He and tag-team partner Adreian Payne are efficient low-post scorers on offense and will get more touches and shots this year.

Keith Appling is back to shooting like he did as a freshman when he led the team with 41 percent from three-point range. He slumped last season but corrected things with tireless work in the offseason. The tandem of Appling and sophomore Travis Trice will continue to trade off at the point and the 2. Either can run the show, or score from deep off the catch-and-shoot. Gary Harris infuses jet fuel to the transition game, and his shooting range and ability to score through contact were a surprise in summer workouts.

Gary Harris, Mr. Basketball in Indiana, is a gifted finisher and will be the Spartans' best athlete. Matt Costello is active and skilled in either post, and combative on defense. Izzo has compared Denzel Valentine's unselfish, visionary style to Magic Johnson. Kenny Kaminski is a fine shooter but needs to slim down and quicken up after missing most of last year with a football injury.

Michigan State is low on household names. But team chemistry is good and Izzo has a penchant for molding blue-collar battlers into overachieving winners. The Spartans will go 11 deep with guys who will buy in on defense and thrive in Izzo's transition system. Michigan State will contend for Izzo's eighth Big Ten title and become increasingly dangerous while developing leadership, rebounding and go-to scorers.


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