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Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Last updated: 2:54pm


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Hoop, There It Is!

Two Spartans earn Big Ten honors


By Zach Smith          Last updated: 03/10/14 7:19pm         

One day after the Big Ten Conference finished off another regular season, the conference announced its list of awards, that included a pair of Spartans.

Sophomore Gary Harris was named to the All-Big Ten first team after leading MSU is scoring at 17.5 points a game. He also averaged a team-high 32.9 minutes, and played in 28 in 28 of the Spartans 31 games this season.

Also on the Big Ten first team was Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble, Nebraska’s Terran Petteway, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, who was the only unanimous decision.

After ranking third in the Big Ten in steals, Harris also locked up a spot on the All-Defensive team along side Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons, and Ohio State teammates Shannon Scott and Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Craft.

Adreian Payne earned a spot on the All-Big Ten second team desire missing six game during the heart of the Big Ten season.

He’s joined by Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, Michigan’s Caris LeVert, D.J. Newbill of Penn State and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.

The coaches and media were split for Coach of the Year, with the press giving the honor to Michigan’s John Beilein, while the coaches thought Nebraska’s Tim Miles was the best.

Even during the Big Ten Network broadcast Beilein gave the nod to Miles.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” the Michigan boss said. “I think it is Tim Miles’ award.”

Nik Stauskas was also named Big Ten Player of the Year after leading Michigan to the Big Ten regular season title.

The next time Appling and Payne will be in action will be the late game Friday night in Indianapolis when they face off against either Iowa or Northwestern.


Foul trouble key topic of discussion in Izzo press conference


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 03/09/14 9:29pm         

It was the last game of the regular season, and the definition of what is and isn’t a foul isn’t any clearer than what it was five months ago to players, coaches and anyone watching.

Just ask head coach Tom Izzo. Or don’t, but he’s still going to bring it up.

In his eight-plus minute-long press conference after the 69-67 loss to Ohio State, Izzo referenced fouls and how his team was in foul trouble 15 times.

Some of it was as a result of shaky calls, other times it was because of OSU slashing to the rim to draw fouls, but all in all, he probably doesn’t want to hear another whistle for a while. After all, the Spartans’ foul problems allowed Ohio State to shoot 31 free throws compared to MSU’s 10.

Not only did it make a difference on the scoreboard, but it made a difference in the rebounding game.

“Because (Branden Dawson) didn’t play, they were driving on us and we didn’t guard very well,” Izzo said. “Consequently, when they drive, we gave up offensive rebounds.”

Dawson committed his third foul just 16 seconds into the second half. The foul was called on what looked like a solid block from our angle, and apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“It was definitely clean,” Dawson said.

He also went on to say how the debatable calls are not an excuse, but it certainly played a role in Sunday’s game.

“It’s just something you have to adjust to and go with it,” Dawson said.


Hoops notebook: Final thoughts from MSU's win over Iowa


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 03/07/14 10:23am         

Anyone else recognize that team out there on Thursday? The one playing against Iowa? It looked like a team I saw a few months ago, and they were wearing the same jerseys too.

In all seriousness, No. 22 MSU looked sharp against the No. 24 Hawkeyes in an 86-76 win — probably the best they have looked in weeks. Here are some of my random thoughts about MSU’s win:

**If there was ever any question how much this team missed Branden Dawson, the answer was shown tonight. He scored eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, but that wasn’t the most impressive part of his game.

His defense was tighter than yoga pants, and it showed on paper, as he had five steals and three blocks.

Keep in mind that doesn’t account for all the turnovers he forced but didn’t get the box score recognition for.

**Keith Appling wasn’t lying when he said his shot was improving.

However a fan in the stands had as many points as he did in the first half (zero), so he needed a little bit of a push.

Well, from what Appling said after the game, halftime was mostly spent challenging him (probably a nice way to put it) and he responded with 12 points in the second half.

He needed a push from Izzo, but now that the rock is rolling, it will be hard to stop it.

**Travis Trice took that scuffle a heck of a lot better than you, the person sitting next to you and I would have.

In case you forgot, Iowa’s Zach McCabe looked like he tried to throw Trice to the center of the earth. Trice not only kept his cool and walked away, but he said after the game he walked up to McCabe, forgave him and then wished him luck the rest of the season.

I’m willing to guess a lot of people out there wouldn’t have had a level head like that, and that situation could have gotten a lot uglier.

**Speaking of ugly, what in the world has happened to Iowa? MSU played outstanding on Thursday night, but I’m almost convinced my IM team could have scored at least 70 against the Hawkeyes.

Once seen as a Big Ten power, Iowa’s defense is so withered down it looks like it needs a telethon.

You could see the frustration on the bench, you could see it on the players and you could definitely read about it after Fran McCaffery’s postgame press conference. Talk about a bad time of the year to fall apart.

**Finally, and I can’t end this without bringing it up, but Adreian Payne ended his Breslin Center playing days like every kid dreams — delivering tacos to the fans.

His layup got the Spartans to 70, which translates to free Taco Bell for all the fans in attendance. Every kid, and I mean every kid, dreams of hitting the shot that triggers a marketing promotion. What a way to ride off into the sunset.


Big Ten releases 2014-15 men's basketball schedule


By          Last updated: 02/28/14 5:21pm         

The Big Ten Conference announced home and away ties for the 2014-15 men’s basketball season.

This will be the first year Rutgers and Maryland will play in the Big Ten.

Each team will play an 18-game conference schedule with five game home and away, and the other eight single-plays.

The Spartans will host and travel to Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Northwestern.

Coming to the Breslin Center and meeting only once in the regular season will be Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. MSU will travel to but not host Iowa, Nebraska, Rutgers and Wisconsin.


Izzo's appearance in ladder commercial draws laughs


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 02/27/14 6:15pm         

Have you seen the video of the week yet?

Well, if you haven’t, here is your chance to watch some of the most entertaining 30 seconds head coach Tom Izzo has to offer.

He’s got his sweatsuit game looking proper, his dancing shades on and his fresh moves are showstoppers.

Not the prettiest showstoppers, but moves that are undeniably memorable after just one view.

“I asked him if that’s how he really dances, and he said no,” junior forward Branden Dawson said. “But that was hilarious”
The moves were indeed not from an original “Izzo’s Dance Party” DVD, but instead choreographed by the producers of the commercial.

Even with the moves given to him, Izzo said they sped up the video to enhance his performance.

It may come as a surprise, but Izzo said he had some of his own moves up his sleeve he never got the chance to bust out.

“(I’m) not a dancer, you could tell that,” Izzo said.” I had other steps I wanted to use but they wanted me to use those, so I did.”

Sophomore guard Denzel Valentine, who busted out the “Dougie” during last year’s Izzone Campout, was appointed (by yours truly) as the official judge for his performance. So, on a scale of 1-10, where did Izzo fall on Valentine’s scale?

“I would give him a five for trying,” Valentine said while laughing. “At least he did it, there’s a lot of people that wouldn’t do that. But he had some fun with it … at least he tried.”


Prediction: Behind strength of Payne, MSU will take down U-M on road


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 02/22/14 7:30pm         

Seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have never won at Crisler Center.

Until Sunday.

Michigan had an incredible rally to top the Spartans at home, but that was without Branden Dawson and Payne suited up for MSU. This time, Payne will be in action to dominate U-M’s big men.

Payne is the most versatile big man in the Big Ten, and Michigan’s front court struggles with even above average big men.

It’s also no question question if Gary Harris has his shot back after lighting up Purdue with 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

He also will looking to plaster Nik Stauskus, who has been in a small funk ever since his visit to East Lansing.

MSU will need to lock down Michigan’s rising star, Caris LeVert. He has scored in double figures five of the last six games, and I don’t see him cooling down any time soon.

But even if LeVert does get going, I see Payne taking over the game and leading the Spartans to victory.

If he stays out of foul trouble, he might finish the game with 150 points. Or around 25, if you want to be realistic about it.

Get ready to rejoice, Spartan fans, because you will have bragging rights until the next meeting.

MSU: 68 U-M: 62


Prediction: MSU wins a defensive battle tonight versus Purdue


By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith          Last updated: 02/20/14 2:53pm         

Zach Smith

Coming off such a disappointing loss to Nebraska last Sunday, I don’t think there could be a more refreshing game for the No. 13 MSU men’s basketball team than Purdue.

This is the perfect warmup for the showdown for the top of the Big Ten showdown at Michigan on Sunday.

Even if Keith Appling doesn’t start, and I don’t think he will, he and Adreian Payne will get some much needed game time together.

Purdue doesn’t do any one thing really well, but in the Big Ten, anything is possible.

It will be up to sophomore Gary Harris to defend the Boilermakers’ leading scorer, Terone Johnson, and Appling and junior guard Travis Trice to stick with Ronnie Johnson.

Harris has been looking better in the last couple games, but he needs to really get some consistency in his shot. What better place to do it than at his mom’s alma mater?

I think the Spartans will come back with a vengeance after the loss to the Cornhuskers. Tuesday’s practice was the most intense I’ve seen the team all year.

MSU: 68 Purdue: 58

Matt Sheehan

Tonight will be Denzel Valentine’s night — you heard it here first.

Purdue has one monster on its team in 7-foot center AJ Hammons, leaving a tough night for Adreian Payne. With his ability to stretch the floor, he will still do some damage, but MSU needs to find its power from the backcourt.

With Keith Appling being a question mark and Gary Harris still trying to get out of a little funk, Valentine will be the man tonight.

Travis Trice and Harris will each score in double figures, but my crystal basketball tells me Valentine puts up a surprising 17 points and eight rebounds.

MSU won’t be earning the win by offense though. Instead they will lock down Purdue on defense to the point where the Boilermakers will feel suffocated.

Yes, Purdue is coming off its best performance of the year in their 82-64 win over Indiana, but MSU simply won’t allow that. The Spartans possess the best defense in the Big Ten, and something tells me Purdue won’t shoot 55 percent from behind the arc again.

Expect a painfully low-scoring game in the first half, but look for MSU to pull away in the final eight minutes of the game.

MSU: 74 Purdue: 59


Assist-heavy effort powers victory over Penn State


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 02/07/14 1:15am         

On Thursday, the Spartans were in the giving spirit, dishing 22 assists on 28 made baskets in their 82-67 win over Penn State.

You might be able to call MSU’s effort as friendly, but junior guard Travis Trice wanted more than the seven assists he racked up in his effort.

“I probably would have had 10 assists if Gary (Harris) hit some shots,” Trice said. “He was broke in the first half.”

Don’t be alarmed about a possible locker room beef, though. Harris and Trice were jokingly going back-and-forth in the locker room during post-game interviews, definitely feeling loose after the convincing victory.

After Trice threw his playful jab at Harris, who was listening, he talked about what tonight’s stat line says about the team’s character.

“It really just shows how unselfish we are, and we really don’t care who scores,” Trice said. “Gary had a big night, Kenny (Kaminski) had a really good night, and it just goes to show on any given night somebody can be hot and you got to feed them.”

Before the game, MSU was fifth in the nation at assists per game with 17.3, proving that being unselfish with the ball is one of the team’s mantras.

“I thought some guys passed up some shots – Gary (Harris) passed up one,” head coach Tom Izzo said after the game. “I just thought that that is the way we played earlier this year.”


Prediction: Penn State better than record, but MSU will come out on top


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 02/06/14 7:55pm         

Reporter Matt Sheehan offers his prediction for MSU’s game tonight versus Penn State:

Believe it or not, Penn State is the hottest team in the Big Ten with their three-game winning streak.

Did the Spartans smash them when they went to State College, Penn. more than a month ago? You bet they did, but I wouldn’t count on a repeat.

Coming in with arguably the best backcourt in the nation in Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, the Spartans are going to have their hands full.

However, MSU will give the Nittany Lions’ star duo a headache by plastering Keith Appling and Gary Harris on them for most the game.

Holding opponents to 38.4 percent shooting, the Spartans are the best team in the Big Ten when it comes to making their opponents shoot bricks.

While this game will likely be decided in the backcourt, the Spartans are going to have the advantage in the paint now that Adreian Payne is slated for his comeback.

The only downside to having Payne back is remodeling the offense around him again, as head coach Tom Izzo stated earlier this week.

But this isn’t Bob the towel boy being thrown into the offense — this is a 6-foot-10 Wooden Award watch list member, so welcoming him back on the court will be silky smooth.

Just like every other MSU game against a lesser opponent, I see the Spartans coming out flatter than two week old soda.

The Green and White will make a late surge to tighten the game at halftime, and Harris will take over the game in the second half with some crucial Kenny Kaminski 3-pointers sprinkled in as well.
R.I.P. to the three game win streak.

MSU: 68 Penn State: 64


Handing out Big Ten mid-season awards


By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 02/02/14 5:07pm         

Well gang, here we are — halfway through the Big Ten season. Needless to say, it has been an unpredictable series of events with MSU and U-M being the only two teams that look like they want to win the conference title. Here are the midseason awards basketball reporter Matt Sheehan would dish out to the always-surprising conference:

All-Big Ten First Team:
G Keith Appling, MSU
G Gary Harris, MSU
G Nik Stauskus, U-M
F Aaron White, Iowa
F Noah Vonleh, Indiana

Second Team:
G Tim Frazier, Penn State
G Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
G/F Drew Crawford, Northwestern
F LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
C A.J. Hammons, Purdue

Big Ten Player of the Year: Keith Appling
He’s not the Big Ten’s leading scorer, but he is the general of arguably the Big Ten’s best team.

Appling has not only been in every game for MSU, but he has been doing it with a list of injuries. The senior guard has four conference games where he has tallied at least 20 points and seven assists.

The rest of the conference combined? They have only done it four times.

Appling also had late- game heroics against Ohio State and Iowa, showing off his improved 3-point shot that teams willingly gave him one season ago.

The Detroit native has a great stat line, but it’s also the almighty eye test that would give Appling a passing grade. Without Appling, everyone might see the loss column look a little more crowded if it wasn’t for Appling guiding this injury-plagued team.

Most surprising team: Michigan
Honestly, who had the Wolverines at the top of the Big Ten before the season started? They lost all-world player Trey Burke and teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. to the draft, leaving a huge question mark above their season.

And how has UM answered? By coming on the scene as one of the hottest shooting teams in the nation — hitting 49 percent of their shots from the field before their loss to Indiana. Their hot hands were the reason they were able to take down three top 10 teams in a row in Wisconsin, Iowa and MSU.

Most disappointing team: Ohio State
Aaron Craft’s hussle simply isn’t enough for the Buckeyes this season, as the once No. 3 team in the nation has fallen to a laughable 4-5 in the Big Ten. Where has this letdown of a season come from? It’s two simple reasons:

1) Deshaun Thomas, who averaged 19.8 points per game, opted to enter the NBA Draft instead of coming back for one more season. So who was next up to be the Buckeyes’ consistent scorer? Wait, you don’t have an answer? Exactly.

2) They took after their football team and gave the world false hope with their weak schedule. They faced one ranked opponent in then-No. 17 Marquette, who has gone 12-10 on the year, and then a dozen schools half the nation has never heard of.

So what have we learned so far, everyone? Don’t schedule Candy Land Tech-caliber teams and expect to compete in the Big Ten.

Best game: Penn State 71, Ohio State 70 on Jan. 29
Coming into Columbus looking for its second Big Ten win, Penn State knew they would have to sink shots at will to hang with the Buckeyes.

With 13 seconds left in the game and the Nittany Lions down three points, D.J. Newbill stepped up with a 3-ball to put the game in overtime.

But Newbill wasn’t done upsetting every Buckeye fan in attendance just yet.

In overtime, the junior guard saw his team down three points with 45 seconds remaining in overtime.

He got a layup to fall to cut the deficit to one, and then drained a jump shot with two ticks left on the clock to seal the one point win for Penn State.