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15 | MICHIGAN STATE

Nov. 09, 2015
Nov. 09, 2015

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Nov. 9, 2015

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15 | MICHIGAN STATE

FROM TRAGIC TO MAGIC

This is an article from the Nov. 9, 2015 issue

Growing up, Denzel Valentine had a small forward's body and a point guard's skills, prompting comparisons to another prodigy from Lansing, Mich. But at Michigan State, the comparisons became far less apt. "I used to say he's trying to be like Magic Johnson, but he's more like Tragic Johnson," coach Tom Izzo says. "He just turned the ball over so much. He wasn't making bad decisions. He was trying to be too fancy."

Now a 6'5" senior guard, Valentine has reversed that tragic trajectory. Last season he was the only player in the Big Ten to rank in the top 15 in points (14.5), rebounds (6.3) and assists (4.3); he also hit 41.6% of his threes. Led by Valentine, the seventh-seeded Spartans took a surprise trip to the Final Four—especially impressive considering that he was battling two sports hernias that required surgery last April.

Valentine will play alongside Eron Harris, a 6'3" junior transfer from West Virginia (42.2% on three-pointers as a sophomore), and 6'3" senior Bryn Forbes (42.7% last season) to form the best long-range trio in the country. The roster is deep (eight players have started at least once) and talented (see 6'10" freshman Deyonta Davis). Valentine's final season could be headed for a magical ending.

PROJECTED TEAM STATS

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 114.5 (16th)

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 95.2 (42nd)

BIG TEN RECORD 12--6 (T-2nd)

X-FACTOR

Gavin Schilling's inconsistency and poor free throw shooting (47.9% last year) have limited his minutes. But during the team's summer trip to Italy, he scored 17 points in two of the three games and averaged 7.0 rebounds.

STAT SHEET

With 2015--16 projections for the top six scorers

Coach Tom Izzo (21st season)

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

PPG RPG APG OFF. RATING USAGE
G Denzel Valentine* 6'5" Sr. 16.4 7.2 4.8 113.8 24.2%
SG Eron Harris 6'3" Jr. 11.1 3.1 1.3 108.5 23.7%
SG Bryn Forbes* 6'3" Sr. 9.9 2.2 1.1 118.3 16.6%
PF Matt Costello* 6'9" Sr. 9.8 6.8 1.1 121.2 19.0%
SF Marvin Clark Jr.* 6'6" Soph. 8.0 3.8 0.6 108.2 21.4%
PF Deyonta Davis 6'10" Fr. 7.6 5.5 0.7 103.0 20.0%

*Starter

TOURNAMENT TRACKER

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

TITLE GAME

FINAL FOUR

ELITE EIGHT

SWEET 16

ROUND OF 32

ROUND OF 64

'11--12

'12--13

'13--14

'14--15

'15--16

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (VALENTINE)PHOTOAL GOLDIS/AP (SCHILLING)CHART