By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith
Last updated: 01/11/14 1:00pm
The bad news for MSU today? Minnesota has Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins (not related) on its roster, the duo that averages a team-leading 15.8 and 12.4 points, respectively.
The good news for MSU? Minnesota is one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, sinking shots at a nations 227th best 43.5 percent.
While the Hollins & Hollins firm is leading the 13-3 Gophers in scoring, it’s 5-foot-9 junior guard Deandre Mathieu, who is the sharpshooter of the squad.
However, besides Mathieu, who more than 50 percent from the field and behind the arch, the team tails off on shooting.
Besides him, no one else is shooting higher than 40 percent from 3-point land.
But just because their shooting is off doesn’t mean the Gophers don’t compete. All three of their Big Ten games have been decided by three points, and they have kicked off conference play with a 2-1 record, but today is the beginning of a tough stretch for Minnesota.
After facing the No. 5 Spartans, the Gophers will face No. 3 Ohio State, No. 20 Iowa and No. 4 Wisconsin.
Minnesota will get close to starting their demanding stretch on the right foot, but sophomore guard Gary Harris and junior forward Branden Dawson will keep the Gopher’s scorers in check today. If senior forward Adreian Payne (foot) or junior guard Travis Trice (illness) stay sidelined for today’s game, this game could be another nail biter in East Lansing.
Regardless of who plays, the Spartans will remain unbeaten in their young Big Ten season and jump up in the rankings on Monday. Oh yeah, and there also will be free tacos tonight.
MSU: 81 Minnesota: 74
This could very easily be a trap game for the No. 5 MSU men’s basketball team, but they way they’ve been playing the last couple times out, I don’t think it will be.
Minnesota is a much improved team from a season ago, when the Spartans lost to the Golden Gophers in Minnesota before beating them when they came to East Lansing.
The key will be to stop Austin and Andre Hollins, who are the leading scorers on the team. Also getting past Elliott Eliason will be tough, as he has 42 blocks on the season.
Gopher head coach Richard Pitino plays much the same way as his father, Rick Pitino, who won the 2013 NCAA National Championship with Louisville.
MSU most likely will be without junior guard Travis Trice and senior forward Adreian Payne, so sophomores Denzel Valentine and matt Costello will have to step up their game.
The Spartans have been able to find one scorer that can carry the load in every game thus far this season, and this time around it’s going to be senior guard Keith Appling.
He was cramping up in the overtime win against Ohio State, but toughed it out to lead the Spartans to victory.
This will be closer than expected early on, but MSU will pull away in the end.
MSU: 75 Minnesota: 67
By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith
Last updated: 01/07/14 2:20pm
Number don’t lie, except when they do.
That odd statement isn’t any truer when it comes to Ohio State, who is holding opponents to 54.9 points per game, the second-lowest mark in the nation.
But just like OSU’s football team, the remarkable stat lines are a product from their incredibly weak schedule. The only top 25 team the Buckeyes have played was then-No. 17 Marquette, who has proved themselves unworthy of a preseason ranking as they have fallen to a 9-6 record.
So am I saying OSU is a tad overrated by not scheduling any solid teams and instead beat on schools that have the caliber of some local high school teams? You bet I am.
Ohio State has held three teams to under 50 points this season, but they have never faced an offensive machine like MSU, who is averaging more than 82 points per game.
Senior guard Keith Appling’s 3-point shooting has improved by 15 percent from last year, and he is playing smarter than ever at point guard. Sophomore guard Gary Harris is coming off a 27-point game, a performance where his shooting was so hot it could probably melt all the snow in East Lansing.
And then there is senior forward Adreian Payne, who averages 16.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. OSU only has one player taller than 6-foot-9, and the Buckeyes are 95th in the nation in rebounding.
Basically, what I’m saying is if MSU is struggling on the wings with Appling and Harris, they can rely on Payne in the post to give them the edge in post scoring and rebounding.
MSU leads for most the game and OSU will have a late run to keep the game exciting, but the Izzone will cue up the “Just like football” chant and everyone wearing green and white will go home happy.
MSU: 70 OSU: 64
The clash between the Spartans and Buckeyes is quickly becoming one of the premier rivalries in the Big Ten — tonight will only add to that arua.
The key to this game will be the guard play, especially at the point.
Appling and Buckeye senior Aaron Craft are two of the best in the country, and with both having a fantastic season to this point.
Craft leads the Big Ten in steals (2.5 per game) and is second in assists (4.9), and Appling is notched at No. 4 on the assists per game (4.6) list and leads the conference in 3-point shooting percentage.
Ohio State guard Shannon Scott is second in the Big Ten with 2.1 steals per game.
The turnovers that Craft and Scott create lead to fast-break points, a category the Spartans must win if they want to have a chance against the talented and athletic Buckeyes.
While Ohio State will be looking at their guards on the defensive end, the Spartans will be looking to sophomore guard Gary Harris to carry the load offensively.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta recruited Harris out of high school, but now that he’s at MSU, he’s lighting up opponents, averaging more than 16 points per game.
The No. 2 scorer in the Big Ten will have another big game against Ohio State.
Appling and Harris led the Spartans in scoring the last two times out against the Buckeyes, but haven’t worked together like they have thus far this season.
The Spartans down the Buckeyes in a close one.
MSU: 78 OSU: 75
By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith
Last updated: 12/21/13 12:43pm
State News basketball reporters Matt Sheehan and Zach Smith offer their predictions for today’s MSU-Texas men’s basketball game in Austin, Tex. The game is at 4 p.m. on CBS.
MSU 76, Texas 73
Texas beat North Carolina and North Carolina beat MSU, therefore Texas should beat MSU?
I’m a journalist, so I’m not good at math, but college basketball isn’t as predictable as a mathematic equation.
That’s why I think MSU pulls this one out against Texas in Austin.
Branden Dawson had one of the worst games of his career at home against North Carolina, but since then, he’s been a man possessed, scoring in double digits against Oakland and North Florida.
Midway though the 21-day challenge head coach Tom Izzo set for him, he’ll bring the most energy, and lead the Spartans against the Longhorns.
Jonathan Holmes leads Texas by averaging just over 13 points a game, but he was cramping up against North Carolina earlier in the week.
Still, Isaiah Taylor and DeMarcus Holland also average more than 10 a game, and Cameron Ridley is a big presence in the post that MSU might struggle to guard without sophomore forward Matt Costello.
This will be a slowed down, back-and-forth type of game, but MSU, and more importantly Dawson, aren’t going to get embarrassed again.
Texas 75, MSU 70
Fresh off a win over No. 14 North Carolina, the Longhorns haven’t given their fans any sense of doubt in this young season.
And this afternoon will be another reason for Texas to believe they are for real this season.
Texas boasts three guards that average more than 10 points, and while Keith Appling should hold his own on defense, I don’t think the supporting cast will do enough to completely shut down the trio.
However, even if the guard play is shut down, Texas can dominate in the post.
Longhorns center Cameron Ridley might as well be Derrick Nix’s younger brother by the way he’s built and the way he plays.
Averaging nearly 10 points per game, the 6-foot-9, 285 pound center will be licking his chops with the matchup in the paint today; he will be paired up with Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling (Matt Costello is out with mononucleosis).
MSU’s leading scorer, Gary Harris, likely will be making a return today, but MSU fans should hold off on the celebration for that news.
Yes, getting Harris back on the floor will do wonders for the Spartans, but probably not today.
For the last three weeks, Harris has missed more than a handful of practices, and that likely will translate to the court. Don’t believe me? His line for the North Carolina game was 5-for-15 from the field and he had a pair of missed layups.
Was it the worst game imaginable? Of course not (he still had 17 points), but a performance like that will not make up for the injury-plagued Spartans’ shortcomings today.
Texas will come out firing, and despite a late MSU run, the Longhorns will win, interrupting their football coaching talk for approximately seven minutes in Austin, Tex.
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 12/18/13 10:30am
If anyone were to walk into the men’s basketball locker room, they might want to carefully watch where they step. One miscue and they could be the next victim of the hungry injury bug floating player to player. Here’s a breakdown of the victims the injury bug has claimed in this young season:
Gary Harris: Still nursing the sprained ankle he suffered in the off-season. Last week, he had a hard cast on his lower leg that was taken off Friday, but stressed that it was just precautionary so the injury doesn’t worsen over time. Harris, despite missing out on practice the past two weeks, claimed he could have played on Tuesday against North Florida.
“(Travis Trice and I) are definitely competitors, we hate sitting down because we wanted to play,” Harris said. “But I feel like another day off, another day of rest didn’t hurt us”
Travis Trice: Just like Harris said, he and Trice both wanted to play against the Ospreys. Blistered feet kept the junior guard sidelined for Tuesday and the days of practice leading up to the game as well, but if it was entirely up to Trice, he would have played.
“I’m doing alright though, I wanted to play today,” Trice said after the game. “I didn’t go through shoot around this morning, and I haven’t practiced the last two days, but coming in today, I wanted to play.”
Keith Appling: The senior guard has had more knocks than a crash dummy, but he hasn’t missed a game. Appling bruised his hip on a hard fall against UNC, sprained his wrist and tweaked his ankle against Oakland, but that seems to be a non-issue now. However, the wrist is still giving him problems that are progressing.
“The more I shoot, the worse it gets,” Appling said “The days where we get some time to relax, I just try not to do anything, so hopefully that gets me back to where I was before the North Carolina game.”
Matt Costello: Out indefinitely with mononucleosis. The sophomore forward hasn’t played since Dec. 4 against North Carolina, but was ill in that game. Costello will not be making the trip down to Texas for the Dec. 21 match-up, but does head coach Tom Izzo know when he will be making a return?
“I have no clue. None,” Izzo said after Tuesday’s game. “And do you know what? I’m done worrying about it, because I’ve spent about a week now worrying about these things I can’t control.”
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 12/04/13 4:27pm
All eyes in college basketball will be on No. 1 MSU tonight as they host the roller coaster that is UNC. The State News basketball writers Matt Sheehan and Zach Smith (attempt to) take a look into the future to see how tonight’s game will play out.
Matt Sheehan: MSU: 74 UNC: 69
The No. 1 men’s basketball team hasn’t lost to UNC in 13 years – until tonight.
North Carolina walks into the game as the biggest question mark in college basketball, as they lost to Belmont and UAB, but inexplicably pulled out a nine point win over No. 3 Louisville.
If there is any saving grace donned in Tarheel blue, it’s star guard Marcus Paige. The 6-foot-1 sophomore averages more than 20 points a game, and UNC will need all of that tonight, but Gary Harris and Keith Appling will have something to say about that.
Whoever is assigned to him will lock Paige down to 12 points at the most, taking away the main gear to UNC’s engine.
MSU can’t slack in the post though, as UNC boasts 6-foot-9 James Michael McAdoo and 6-foot-10 Joel James. If Matt Costello, Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling don’t make a dent in the rebounding game, then this could spell trouble.
But, nonetheless, MSU is one of the fastest and skilled teams in the nation. Harris, Dawson, Payne and Valentine will all score in double figures, and MSU will win this game that will go down to the stretch.
Zach Smith: MSU: 86 UNC: 78
North Carolina seems to play up to their opponents, as they beat Louisville, but fell to lesser opponents Belmont and UAB.
This is going to be a running game, and the team that controls the game in transition and gets more fast break points is going to come out on top.
I see Keith Appling having another big game in the assist column, and with Gary Harris still on the mend, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice are going to lead the offense.
North Carolina will keep it close down the stretch, but the No. 1 Spartans will pull away in the end.
MSU comes out on top in a high scoring affair.
By Derek Blalock
Last updated: 11/13/13 6:54pm
Leading up to Tuesday’s Champions Classic, heaps of applause and criticism was directed toward No. 1 Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s recruiting and coaching style.
But from No. 2 MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo to ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, one theme is common, Calipari is great at what he does.
Prior to tip-off of the MSU-Kentucky game, Vitale spoke to a group of reporters about his thoughts on Calipari’s style.
“I don’t like it, but bottom line is when you think about it, what is he doing wrong, who would say, ‘no’ to Julius Randle, who would say, ‘no’ to the Harrison kids,” Vitale said. “He’s just better at what he does than a lot of other people. He’s just following a rule that exists, he has no other choice and the bottom line is to get the best players and he does a great job at it. He’s a masterful salesman… It’s all about recruiting and he’s got a great product to sell, Kentucky basketball.”
After MSU’s 78-74 victory against Kentucky on Tuesday, Izzo also added his thoughts about Calipari’s style of recruiting “one-and-done” players, and called it an anomaly.
Kentucky currently has six freshman who were McDonald’s All-Americans in high school, and likely will be selected high in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“He’s found a niche, he does an incredible job with it, but I don’t think that’s the norm right now,” Izzo said. “I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I hope I get more and more ‘one-and-done’ or ‘two-and-done’ (players), but I appreciate having guys around.
“I appreciate hearing (Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson) talk about making sure they don’t worry about those things and play basketball. At the end of the year, things will get taken care of. If it takes you one year or three years, it’s about the final goal and it’s about the process.”
Izzo also added he liked to hear senior guard Keith Appling talk about his experiences in four years at MSU have helped him on and off the court.
“(Keith Appling) said something pretty cool, he said I’ve grown up off the court and on the court and I don’t think we give kids a chance to grow up off the court,” Izzo said. “It’s a shame. We’ve sped the process up so fast. God bless the kids who are good enough to go.”
By Derek Blalock, Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/12/13 7:16pm
CHICAGO — The No. 2 Spartans are set to take on No. 1 Kentucky at Chicago’s United Center in the first game of the Champions Classic. No. 4 Duke squares off with No. 5 Kansas for the night’s finale. State News reporters Stephen Brooks and Derek Blalock offer their predictions on the highly-anticipated showdown.
It’s youth versus experience in the first matchup of the top-two ranked teams in the country since 2008. Once again, Kentucky and head coach John Calipari have assembled a jaw-dropping collection of talent, led by what some consider the greatest recruiting class in history.
One thing I’ll be watching if how senior center Adreian Payne operates in the post against 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein and highly-touted freshman forward Julius Randle, who MSU head coach Tom Izzo said had a “Chris Webber body.” In the exhibition games and the season-opener, Payne spent a lot of time hanging around the perimeter and less time working on the block. We’ll see if getting the ball inside is an emphasis for the Spartans tonight.
With so much attention on Calipari’s latest crop of studs, Izzo made a point on Monday to remind everyone the Spartans have some talent on their side, too, and it’s seasoned talent. I think that’s the difference in this early-season bout. The Spartans have played in big games such as this before, including beating Kansas in last year’s Champion’s Classic and seem better suited to handle the situation and environment.
At this point in the season, my gut tells me to side with the experience. There’s no doubt the Wildcats will grow as the season moves forward, and could easily be the toughest team around at season’s end. For now, I say MSU gets the win with the margin buffered by late free throws.
Prediction: MSU 78, Kentucky 69
Tom Izzo said it best.
“There are talented teams and then there are talented teams,” he said. “I am not sure if I ever, and I am not sure if anybody here has heard of seven or eight first-round players on the same team. The North Carolina team was the best team that I ever played against and there were five of them, I think. You start talking seven, that’s a whole different experience… I am not sure if that experience would take place over the talent if there is that much of it.”
No. 2 MSU is a very good team, with a couple first-round NBA picks, a lot of experience, and depth.
The Spartans also showed in their first three games they can run the floor much better than years past, and are bound for a great post-season run, but I think Kentucky’s talent level trumps MSU’s. Kentucky’s probable starting five features an average height of 6-foot-8. Kentucky’s height advantage as well as talent level will be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Kentucky 74, MSU 68
By Derek Blalock
Last updated: 11/12/13 3:38pm
Tuesday night will be one of the most exciting nights in college basketball this season. It might also be a preview of the 2014 NBA Draft, with heaps of talent on display for all four participating teams.
At 7:30 p.m., No. 2 MSU (1-0 overall) will tip off against No. 1 Kentucky (2-0) at the United Center in Chicago for the third annual Champions Classic.
Not only will some of the top players in the country be on full display, the game also will pit MSU head coach Tom Izzo against friend and Kentucky head coach, John Calipari.
At his weekly press conference Monday afternoon, Izzo talked about his friendship with Calipari, who is known for attracting multiple top recruits and so called “one and done” players. Izzo said they are able to talk from time to time and they also go head-to-head on the recruiting trail.
“I shouldn’t be close friends with him at all,” Izzo joked. “I haven’t been able to recruit very well against him, number one. And the only time that we played against each other, we were I think 100 points down at halftime. It might have only been 30, and it just felt like 100. I don’t know why the hell I like the guy. I guess he is Italian, and I appreciate that.”
The only other time both head coaches faced each other was in the 2008 Sweet Sixteen. Calipari, then with the Memphis Tigers, beat Izzo and the Spartans, 94-72.
Kentucky features arguably the greatest freshman class in any school’s history. Of the nine freshman, six were McDonald’s All-American last year.
Though many argue whether this is the right approach, Izzo applauds Calipari for what he has been able to accomplish.
“I respect the fact that he can take a bunch of freshmen and for the most part over these years he is able to change his team and still get them to play at a high level,” Izzo said. “Nobody has that, nobody. But he has to coach them too.
“With that can go problems. I think he is pretty demanding of his guys. I don’t think he just rolls the ball out. I think he gets after them. I respect that about him. So we will be friends until the ball goes up and then if we are down 30 at halftime, I think I am bagging my friendship.”
Although MSU doesn’t feature any “diaper dandies” as ESPN analyst Dick Vitale likes to call top freshman, the Spartans do feature a veteran lineup featuring senior center Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Gary Harris.
In the other matchup, No. 4 Duke will play No. 5 Kansas at 9:30 p.m.
Millions of viewers will be able to see Andrew Wiggins, a preseason All-American, and the No. 1 recruit in last season’s class, according to ESPN. For Duke, Jabari Parker, another star freshman, will be on display in the nationally televised audience. Parker was the No. 2 recruit behind Wiggins, according to ESPN.
By Derek Blalock
Last updated: 11/11/13 9:31pm
Tom Izzo described the night as a “Final Four in November.”
It’s an event that could feature more than a handful of first-round NBA draft picks.
The Champions Classic, which takes place Tuesday night in Chicago, includes four of the top-five teams in the nation — No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 MSU, No. 4 Duke and No. 5 Kansas. The nationally televised classic created in 2011 is a double-header and will be on ESPN.
Fans already are paying about $200 more per ticket than the past two years at Madison Square Garden in 2011 and Georgia Dome in 2012.
Fans are paying an average of $366 per ticket for the game, which will be held at Chicago’s United Center.
“I’m not sure I’ve been as excited about an opportunity as this in a long, long time,” Izzo said. “I just think it’s great for college basketball, it’s great for the media, great for the fans, great for the programs. And as I said … I think all teams will benefit in some way shape or form.”
MSU will tip off against Kentucky at 7:30 p.m.
By Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/05/13 6:41pm
Three days before MSU’s regular season tipoff against McNeese State, senior center Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Gary Harris are among the 15 players named to the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, a National Player of the Year award.
The Spartans are the only team with two representatives on the list. Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Michigan’s Mitch McGary make up the rest of the Big Ten candidates. The watch list was compiled by the United States Basketball Writers Association’s board of directors.
Harris received preseason recognition on Oct. 31 when he was voted preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. He and Payne were second-team All-Big Ten selections in 2012-13.
MSU will see another Oscar Robertson candidate in Kentucky freshman forward Julius Randle when it takes on the Wildcats on Nov. 12 in Chicago for the Champions Classic.