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Monday, August 31, 2015

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Hoop, There It Is!

Despite loss Branden Dawson still in top ten player rankings

By Zach Libby          Last updated: 01/19/15 4:34pm         

Melo Trimble's performance against MSU this Saturday was good enough for him to land at No. 7 in the Big Ten player rankings this week. 

Scoring 21 of his 24 points in the first half en route to a 75-59 victory in front of the home crowd, the freshman, along with Maryland teammate Jake Layman (No. 9), both players made the biggest jump from being unranked to having their name put on the map as conference play rolls on. 

Despite MSU failing to capture their first victory against a ranked team, Branden Dawson didn't falter out of the top ten, falling just two spots to No. 6, the highest ranked Spartan on the list. 

"The 14-point, 10-rebound effort at Maryland is impressive, but the Spartans couldn’t hit any shots," the website wrote. "Dawson leads the Big Ten with a staggering 11.6 boards a game in conference play."

Both Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice cracked the honorable mentions list, along with Dez Wells (Maryland), Gabe Olaseni (Iowa) and others. 

Valentine and Trice currently lead the team in points and field goals made respectively. They'll look to bounce back on Wednesday when they post Penn State, who is fresh off of a 84-77 loss against Purdue on Saturday. 

No one from the Michigan Wolverines' roster found their name on the list, as junior standout Caris LeVert will miss the rest of the season with a left foot injury. 

Michigan State lands West Virginia guard

By Sierra Williams          Last updated: 06/09/14 3:35pm         

One of the nations's best transfers has chosen Michigan State over Purdue and Michigan. 

Former West Virginia guard Eron Harris confirmed his decision on Twitter Monday morning.

"I am a Spartan now... can't wait to get started at my new home!" Harris tweeted, who was one of the top scorers at West Virginia.

He averaged 9.8 points during his freshman year and ended his sophomore year averaging 17.2 points per game.

Harris will sit out the 2014-2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules and will then have two years of eligibility left.

Eron Harris' scoring ability will fit in well with MSU's offense considering Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, two of their key scorers from last season, have declared for the NBA draft. 

The Indianapolis native is the fourth player in MSU's incoming class. He joins Lourawls "Tum Tum" NairnMarvin Clark and Javon Bess

Kyle Aherns commits to MSU basketball

By Omari Sankofa II          Last updated: 06/08/14 1:32pm         

Deyonta Davis, who is quickly rising up the recruiting ladder, is no longer the lone representative for MSU's 2015 basketball recruiting class.

According to the Detroit Free Press, shooting guard Kyle Aherns (Versailles, OH) has joined the 2015 class. 

Aherns, listed as a three-star recruit by recruiting website Rivals, received offers from multiple schools, including NCAA Tournament bracket-busters Dayton, Butler and Xavier. 

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard suffered a broken leg last December which ended his junior year campaign. Highlight tapes show Aherns as a sharp-shooting wing with athletic ability near the rim. 

Aherns' commitment comes on the heels of Tuesday's reveal of the most recent ESPN recruiting rankings, where Davis is currently ranked as the 18th best prospect in the country. 

Davis was previously ranked No. 48 overall and has seen his stock climb in recent months. 

The 6-foot-9, 210-pound Muskegon native is listed as a five-star recruit by ESPN and averaged 15 points and 13.2 rebounds per game his junior year.

Industry insider: Harris signing with professional agent

By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 04/01/14 6:58pm         

According to Darren Heitner, owner of SportAgentBlog.com, sophomore guard Gary Harris has signed with an agent.

Heitner tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Harris is signing with Aaron Mintz of CAA Sports.

If true, the move would officially mean Harris would not return for his junior year.

Earlier Tuesday, head coach Tom Izzo said he would encourage Harris to enter his name into the NBA Draft, but said Harris was “torn” with the choice.

Izzo said earlier Tuesday that he would expect to hear a decision within two weeks.

However, the Spartans’ leading scorer looks to be making it clear he is leaving before the Final Four even rolls around.

Among others, Mintz represents Paul George, Terrance Ross and Danny Granger of the NBA.

Loss means end of career for walk-on leader Chapman

By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 03/30/14 6:50pm         

NEW YORK — When the final horn sounded at Madison Square Garden, the clock struck midnight on a few careers at MSU.

Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are done as Spartans following MSU’s 60-54 loss to UConn on Sunday, but there is another much more unheralded senior that will not be on the bench next season — Dan Chapman.

Chapman sat in front of his locker wearing his uniform before he took it off for the last time. He was emotional while hanging his head, but how could he not be?

His journey as a Spartan came to a close on Sunday, but not before he scored the final points of the season for MSU on a 3-pointer with one second on the clock.

The points might have gone unnoticed, but that’s just who Chapman and the scout team have been all year. Unnoticed, but helpful.

Closing the scorebooks for a finale time was a bittersweet moment for Chapman, but in the end he wanted that piece of an NCAA Tournament net.

“(Scoring) felt good, but that little good feeling was massively masked by losing that game that could have brought us to a Final Four,” Chapman said with tears in his eyes.

Next year, a different player will be taking Chapman’s seat at the end of MSU’s bench, meaning the Spartans will be missing one of their leaders on the scout team — team that works seemingly thankless hours in order to help the star players shine.

“It’s going to sound funny, it’s hard to replace him,” junior guard Keenan Wetzel said. “It’s obviously a bigger loss behind the scenes than people realize.”

Wetzel, a fellow walk-on, said the team will miss his “hilarious” attitude he brought to the locker room every day. Even when times were heated for the team on the practice court, Chapman was there to cool tensions down.

“I think coach would appreciate that (light-hearted attitude) also,” Wetzel said. “Sometimes it will be tense here and he will lighten the mood.”

He won’t be part of the eccentric group at the end of the bench anymore, but Chapman will be walking out with four year’s worth of unique MSU memories. Once you bond and work strenuously with a group for four years, it’s hard to say goodbye.

“I’m gonna miss being with those guys every day, and the fire with them working on offense trying to have fun against the starting five,” Chapman said. “I’m definitely going to miss hanging around with everybody, all of the jokes and being with that group of guys day-in and day-out.”

Prediction: MSU advances to Final Four today

By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith          Last updated: 03/30/14 12:58pm         

NEW YORK — State News basketball reporters Zach Smith and Matt Sheehan predict MSU’s upcoming game versus UConn in the NCAA Tournament.

Zach Smith

MSU is going to the Final Four — or at least they will be.

In my opinion, the game against Virginia was essentially the Elite Eiight matchup.

But with the UConn Huskies in the way of a trip to Dallas, it’s important to focus on the task at hand.

The Spartans winning this game is based on two things: If they can stay out of foul trouble, and if either Gary Haris or Keith Appling can step up and score a boatload of points.

The first will be hard, with both Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright being two of the quickest guards the Spartans will face all season.

They might get a lot of nickel-and-dime handcheck fouls, and they’ll probably attack the rim and hop to get hacked.

The second isn’t as hard just because we’ve seen both Harris and Appling score in the past.

But the way Appling has been playing, he’s not going to be the guy, which bring me to my bold prediction that Travis Trice is the leading scorer in this game.

His three-pointer against Virginia might have been the bucket to seal the deal and push him over the offensive edge.

I think both keys are met and the Spartans roll.

MSU: 75 UConn: 66

Matt Sheehan

It’s about a two and a half hour flight from Detroit to Dallas. Roughly an 18 hour drive from Lansing to Dallas. A 15-day and five-hour walk in that same route, too.

Why am I giving you this information? Well, I thought you would like to know how to get to the Final Four to watch MSU.

Yes, boys and girls, the Spartans will top UConn and head to the Final Four today in Madison Square Garden.

However, don’t expect a blowout — this game will come down to the wire.

Napier, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, will score around 25 points. There is no stopping in, but instead just a faint hope to contain him.

MSU’s defense will shut down his supporting cast inside, but I think UConn will get hot from 3-point range today. Niels Giffey shoots 51.4 percent from deep, and he gets a handful of good looks per game because usually the defense is too preoccupied with everyone else.

Last game Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson were the only Spartans to score more than six points. Those two will bring the ruckus again today, but they won’t be the only ones.

Gary Harris and Travis Trice will each score in double figures, and I see Denzel Valentine having a solid role player game with five assists and seven rebounds.

My random prediction of the game is that Keenan Wetzel will be on SportsCenter tonight for ten seconds doing an awesome dance.

Remember Spartan fans, save the couches — they have feelings too.
MSU: 78 UConn: 75

Game's last seconds cause anxiety for Spartans

By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 03/29/14 3:01am         

NEW YORK — It was an example of a debate that could only be proved by a result.

With 1.4 seconds left on the clock in MSU’s 61-59 win over Virginia, head coach Tom Izzo called a timeout to speak to Gary Harris. He was shooting one free throw with a two-point lead, and Virginia had no timeouts.

Miss, and Virginia has to scramble for the ball and fire off a desperation shot. Make it, and you give the Cavaliers a quick moment to maybe set up a decent shot.

Well, Izzo told Harris to miss, but that didn’t sit well with some Spartans.

“I almost went up to Gary and said ‘please just make this,’” junior guard Travis Trice said. “Because at worst, it would be overtime.”

Harris clanked it off the rim, and Virginia’s Justin Anderson fired off a shot from beyond halfcourt.

For that second of ball flight, all to be heard was silence. And for that second, sophomore forward Matt Costello had a brief heart attack on the bench.

“I was scared — I was so scared,” Costello said with his eyes looking like he was experiencing a horrible flashback.

“From the bench, it looked like it was good, so I was freaking out.”

Now sophomore guard Denzel Valentine is usually hard to get a reaction out of during interviews. However, when he was asked about the shot, Valentine let out a sigh of relief he might have been holding since the end of the game.

“Ohh, it looked good for a second,” Valentine said shaking his head. “But it came up a little bit short, so I’m happy.”

Prediction: MSU's season ends tonight

By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith          Last updated: 03/28/14 6:09pm         

NEW YORK — State News basketball reporters Zach Smith and Matt Sheehan predict the outcome of tonight’s MSU-Virginia NCAA Tournament matchup.

Zach Smith
This is a game of matchups, and if the Spartans play like they have for the majority of the tournament, it doesn’t play out well.

Adreian Payne against Akil Mitchell and Gary Harris against Joe Harris. Plus, the uncertain play of Denzel Valentine and Keith Appling the last couple months.

Chances are good that someone’s going to get in foul trouble putting the Spartans in a pickle.

On the other hand, if the Spartans play like a full team, this game matches up really well for MSU.

The X-factor is again going to be Branden Dawson. Virginia doesn’t have that type of player with his mix of athleticism and talent.

Not saying Harvard is the same team as Virginia, but we all saw what difference he made in the first half against the Crimson.

This is going to be a boring, slowed down game, and we’ll be lucky to see 100 points scored between the two teams.

MSU’s season comes to an end.

Virginia: 58 MSU: 48

Matt Sheehan

Spartan fans, prepare to be sad tonight.

And yes, that means I’m predicting an MSU loss tonight, thus closing the chapter on a season and ending the careers of two great seniors.

Sorry, but Virginia is simply a bad matchup for the Spartans.

In my opinion, the Cavaliers come into this game as the second best team in the nation behind Florida. Their defense is the best in the nation, they all are 6-foot-5 or taller (minus starting guard London Parrantes) and they play a physical game.

I would say without a question this is the best team MSU will face all season.

The Spartans will get more than a handful of 3-point shots, as Virginia likes to double team inside.

That means Gary Harris and Travis Trice will have to nail a handful of looks for the Spartans to even have a chance.

MSU has also had foul trouble the last two games, but Virginia doesn’t play the style Delaware and Harvard do, so that will also help the green and white.

But again, this match up favors Virginia. The patience on offense, the ball movement and the unselfishness all work in their favor, and will more than likely wear down MSU’s defense.

MSU will have to play perfect to have a fighting chance, but I see Virginia’s defense being too tight to give MSU enough points to take home the victory.

Virginia: 65 MSU: 58

Rumors swirling about Izzo and Pistons job

By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 03/25/14 4:54pm         

Fact: MSU’s basketball season doesn’t become official until there are rumors about Tom Izzo leaving for the NBA.

If MSU ever went 365 days without the talk, East Lansing would crumble and the world as Spartan fans know it would end.
Well, lucky for them, the world is going to keep on spinning.

USA Today posted a story on Izzo being one of the Detroit Pistons’ main targets. ClickOnDetroit.com picked it up too, and it gained steam.

I’ll just cut to the chase — don’t panic or take it for anything. If Izzo leaves MSU at the age of 59 to go coach in a new frontier, I would fall on the floor. I would then get up, and probably fall down again.

Just because the Pistons are “targeting” him doesn’t mean anything. Heck, the Pistons could target Phil Jackson and John Wooden’s ghost if they wanted to.

It doesn’t mean a single thing unless the feeling is mutual, and I don’t think Izzo is willing to jump ship.

Let’s be real here, the job he would be taking isn’t a glamorous one.

It’s not like he would be inheriting the Los Angeles Clippers or the 2004 Pistons.

Yeah, it’s at home and the owner Tom Gores is an MSU grad, but when Izzo turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers job a few years ago, he made it clear he’s here to stay.

Of course, crazier things have happened, so maybe he will leave.

I just have a hard time getting my eyebrows to raise in shock reading the report, because I think Izzo will stay based in East Lansing.

Prediction: MSU will pull away from Harvard in second half tonight

By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith          Last updated: 03/22/14 5:39pm         

SPOKANE, Wash. — State News basketball reporters Matt Sheehan and Zach Smith predict the outcome of tonight’s MSU-Harvard NCAA Tournament game.

Matt Sheehan

Ahh yes, Harvard — the king of academia and the birthplace of Facebook.

It’s hard to top Harvard in anything, and Cincinnati saw that firsthand on the basketball court on Thursday in their 61-57 loss.

Up next for Harvard is a team you can call, well, “the Harvard of postseason basketball.” This will be a tall task for the Crimson — literally.

6-foot-10 Adreian Payne is fresh off a so-so 41 point performance against Delaware, and I don’t see him slowing down too much tonight.

Harvard has a length problem, as their tallest regular players top out at 6-foot-7.

They have height on the bench, but 6-foot-9 Evan Cummins is the only big man that plays at least 10 minutes off the bench.
If you’re going to bet a friend who will score the most points tonight, be the first to say Payne’s name.

Harvard did do a solid job at shutting down Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati’s main offensive weapon, to a mediocre 6-of-13 shooting performance.

Gary Harris could be seeing the same defensive smothering, and it wouldn’t be out of this world to see him having a sub-par game on offense.

But MSU isn’t like Cincinnati. They have at least four scoring options in any given possessions, and Harvard will have their hands full trying to contain the Spartans onslaught.

This game might start slow, as Harvard plays quality defense, but expect the Spartans to start pulling away in the middle of the second half.

My random, specific prediction of the game is that Russell Byrd will hit a 3-pointer and end his day 1-of-1 shooting. The Byrd wants to soar in Spokane, people.

Next stop, Madison Square Garden.

MSU: 80 Harvard: 70

Zach Smith

I’m not going to insert a smart joke here like everyone else.

Instead I’m going with the cliche saying that the Spartans can’t overlook the Crimson.

Don’t get me wrong, I think MSU is going to win and probably by a lot, but just going off of how Harvard played against Cincinnati and how some of the other lower seeds played against top teams, this isn’t going to be a blowout from the get-go.

Even Costal Carolina stuck with No. 1 seed Virginia for a while, before the Cavaliers pulled away in the second half.

The same will be the case in this game.

MSU has too much size for Harvard, Adreian Payne won’t have a 41 point night again, but he’s going to assert himself in the paint.

Harvard says they want to push the pace, but I think it’s going to be a much slower game than expected.

Harris might not have his best game, seeing as Wesley Saunders will shut him down to some degree, but Payne and Branden Dawson are too athletic and unlike anyone the Crimson have seen all year.

Harvard will keep it close for much of the game, but the Spartans have too much depth and will pull away in the end.

MSU: 69 Harvard: 60