By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 01/29/14 12:00am
MSU’s Tuesday night win was a roller coaster for both the Spartans and the Hawkeyes with a lot of overflowing takeaways. Here are my too-long for Twitter, too-short for a column thoughts on the Green and White’s overtime victory:
*Seriously, what are the rules? Every game I feel I know less rules than I did before. I can’t tell if it is just horrible new rules, or referees just not calling a consistent game. I’m almost certain Gary Harris got whistled for looking at the jersey of his opponent. I also nearly saw Valentine hitch a piggy-back after a Hawkeye threw a pump fake with no whistle. The only thing I do understand is how terrible the new rule change transition has been.
*MSU has to take it easy on the fouls. Today it seemed like every player agreed to see which player could get into foul trouble first, and they nearly all won. With 9:17 remaining in the first half, the Hawkeyes were already in the bonus.
Not too long after they were in the double bonus.
Iowa shot 43 free throws, but luckily for the Spartans the Hawkeyes only hit 30, but they weren’t so lucky against Michigan. In Saturday’s loss, UM hit 23-of-27 free throws in the second half to clinch the win.
*Is there anything Iowa fans won’t complain about? Don’t get me wrong, every home court crowd will act like they are getting robbed on some calls, including MSU.
But Iowa fans are a special breed. If you re-watch the game, you’re more than likely to hear a group freak out after every single call against Iowa.
Iowa takes three steps and is called for a travel? Go insane.
Costello blocks a shot cleanly with no whistle? Food nearly flies on the court.
If Gary Harris got covered with gasoline and lit on fire, resulting in an Iowa foul, you would probably hear a good amount of booing.
It’s probably because basketball success is new and the fans are somewhat new, but please keep it real.
By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith
Last updated: 01/28/14 2:24pm
State News basketball reporters Matt Sheehan and Zach Smith offer their thoughts on MSU’s upcoming game versus Iowa tonight.
Cover your eyes Spartan fans, this will be an ugly one.
In one of Iowa’s most important games in the past decade, look for the No. 12 Hawkeyes to take to it No. 6 MSU early in the game. The home crowd of 14,700 will be the toughest crowd MSU has played in front of since making a trip to Indiana, but this team is also a lot different than it was against the Hoosiers.
As we all know, the top two Spartan rebounders in Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne are summoned to cheerleading on the bench again.
This truly couldn’t come against a worse time, as Iowa is the third best team in the nation — yes, that nation — at grabbing boards.
Missing two starters is also never a good thing, but it stings a little more after looking how deep of a team Iowa is. 11 players average more than 14 minutes of playing time, and each player has earned every minute they are given.
Iowa forward Aaron White will be one of the toughest tests the MSU big men will face in the Big Ten, averaging 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Michigan’s own Roy Devyn Marble will be the guy to watch for the Hawkeyes, as he leads Iowa in scoring at 16.7 points per game.
MSU can shut him down, but again, Iowa is so deep they can look at other options to light up the scoreboard.
The tough atmosphere, the pain of losing Payne (pun intended) and Dawson and the deepness of Iowa will be too much for the Spartans to handle, causing some East Lansing residents to hit the panic button.
Iowa: 77 MSU: 68
Things have taken a drastic turn for the worst for the MSU men’s basketball team.
Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson get hurt, and now Keith Appling joins the list, although he’s going to play through it.
Iowa is one of the most improved teams in the conference, and this is one of the biggest games they’ve ever had.
And the Hawkeyes are going to win.
They’re going to run up and down the court and score a bunch of points on the fast break.
Roy Devyn Marble is going to score at will against the team from his home state, and without Payne and Dawson, it’ s up to Matt Costello to control the rebounds.
Appling can barely score because of his wrist, and Gary Harris isn’t enough to carry the team alone.
It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and Iowa will run up and down the court all over the Spartans.
Iowa: 77 MSU: 69
By Zach Smith
Last updated: 01/25/14 1:11pm
State News basketball reporters Zach Smith and Matt Sheehan share their predictions for tonight’s game.
Is this a big game tonight? Yes. Is the Izzone going to be loud? You bet.
But will that be enough to propel the Spartans towards the win? No chance.
Michigan has found its groove ever since losing Mitch McGary, and guard Nik Stauskas is playing out of his mind.
The interesting thing to watch will be the battle between Stauskas and sophomore guard Gary Harris, who sits at No. 2 in the conference in scoring, just behind Stauskas.
Without senior forward Adreian Payne and junior forward Branden Dawson, the top two rebounders for MSU, it’s going to be hard to contain the Wolverines on the boards, and that will be MSU’s undoing.
Sure, Harris and senior guard Keith Appling can score, but can they carry a limping Spartan team past one of the hottest teams in the country? I don’t think so.
I know all three members of ESPN’s College GameDay, including U-M grad Jalen Rose, picked the Spartans to come out on top, but MSU is missing too many pieces.
Yes, this game is big, but it doesn’t matter in the long run. Last year, MSU rolled in East Lansing, yet the Wolverines were the ones in the national title game.
Appling and Payne were named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, while Stauskas was left off, and he’s going to have a season-defining game to throw his hat in the ring.
This one’s going to get ugly.
Michigan: 75 MSU: 63
If you asked me two weeks ago what would happen in tonight’s rivalry game, I would tell you “same thing as last year.”
However, with the Spartans’ two leading rebounders, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne out, it might not be a 23-point victory.
Not only is the absence of two starters going against MSU, but Michigan is suddenly one of the hottest shooting teams in the nation, knocking down 48.7 percent of its shots.
So will there be another beatdown in this year’s episode of the rivalry? No way — MSU will be fortunate to just come out on top. Lucky enough for Tom Izzo and his Spartans, they are playing in front of one of the best home courts in the nation.
Typically the Spartans have kicked off games looking lifeless, only to be revived in the second half to stay unbeaten in the Big Ten. Even Izzo said his team might be running out of luck soon if they keep up the dull effort to start the game.
But, and I don’t have to tell you this, this game is completely different. MSU will come out guns blazing and the Wolverines will be rattled playing in the most hostile atmosphere they have seen this season.
Of course home court advantage isn’t the only factor — cooling down Canada’s gift to Michigan and leading Big Ten scorer, Nik Stauskus, will undoubtedly be crucial. Yes, Dawson won’t be there to stick on him like a wet T-shirt, but Harris will be just as good as a replacement.
Michigan will keep this game close by using their advantage in the paint. With Payne out, Matt Costello, Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling will have to try to replace the NBA prospect, and Michigan’s Jordan Morgan will make that a tough task.
Morgan’s defense prowess was highlighted down the stretch in their win against Iowa, and the trio replacing Payne is already having a tough enough time scoring as it is.
But fear not, Spartan fans, it isn’t all bad news down low. MSU averages six more rebounds than the Wolverines, who average the nation’s 239th-best rebounding figure — 33.4 boards per game.
Nonetheless, the white-out home crowd will pump the adrenaline through MSU and Harris will contain, not stop, Stauskus from going bonkers at Breslin.
MSU: 73 U-M: 70
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 01/23/14 11:22am
As of late, athletic director Mark Hollis has been tweeting mysterious messages about his latest mad scientist creation in 2018, but no one seems to know what he is talking about.
Not even Tom Izzo.
Izzo was on Michigan’s Big Show on 92.1 FM this morning and was asked by host Michael Patrick Shiels if he knew anything, but the old ball coach is just as confused as we are.
“I swear to you, I didn’t know about Germany until it happened, I didn’t know about Georgetown until it happened and I didn’t know about the aircraft carrier,” Izzo said. “Mark is a loose cannon, but a good loose cannon … 99 percent of the things he does in my behalf end up so positive.”
Izzo went on to say how he has close to no part in many of the marquee events Hollis plans. Instead, Izzo just waits for Hollis to approach him with his next crazy production.
“I tell you what, when I hang up this phone (from the interview) the first thing I’m going to do is call him and ask if we are playing on Mars,” Izzo said. “Although I don’t think you need a passport for Mars.”
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 01/22/14 7:41pm
With the season halfway through, the Wooden Award — the holy grail of college basketball’s individual awards — has unveiled their top 25 frontrunners.
Senior forward Adreian Payne and senior guard Keith Appling made up half of the Big Ten contingent on the list.
Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft were the other two on the list from the conference. No. 18 Duke, No. 2 Syracuse and No. 1 Arizona were the other three schools to have two players on the list.
Appling, who is averaging the team’s third-highest 15.2 points per game, has scored more than 20 points in seven games this season. The Detroit native is more than scoring — he’s team player with 4.6 assists per game and is one of three Spartans to play in every game this season.
Payne, who has missed the last four games, still made the list with his dominance in the post. The 6-foot-10 forward has scored from all over the floor this season, shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range and scoring 16.2 points per game.
He also is averaging 7.7 rebounds per game and is the tallest player on the top 25 list.
The team’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Gary Harris, was kept off the list despite averaging the Big Ten’s-highest 18.2 points per game. He wasn’t the only snug from the list as Kansas big man Joel Embiid, who is the No. 1 overall pick in many mock NBA drafts, was also kept off.
However, the top 25 list does not mean only those listed players can win the award by season’s end.
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 01/21/14 11:57pm
Another day, another mysterious chapter in the Adreian Payne saga.
After No. 3 MSU’s win over Indiana, head coach Tom Izzo was obligatorily asked about the health of his senior forward, who has missed the last four games with a sprained foot. On Monday, Izzo said he has close to no idea when he will come back, keeping his status at day-to-day. Well, not much changed over the 24 hour-long period, as Izzo still isn’t sure if he will be ready for Saturday’s game against No. 21 Michigan.
“Payne is a day-to-day deal,” Izzo said. “He’s run twice … but I don’t know, I don’t think he is playing (on Saturday) right now, but he wants to play.”
Sitting in the press conference, you could nearly see the frustrations on Izzo’s face, but who could blame him? He has almost seen more injuries on his roster than a doctor, and the difficult choices with the injuries are admittedly stressing Izzo out.
“I’ve got some of the toughest coaching decisions in my life to make as far as that goes,” Izzo said. “It’s going to be me and (Payne). Doctors have done their job, everyone else has done theirs. It’s going to be me and him sitting down and talking about the pain of Payne.”
Payne was not available for comment after the game.
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 01/21/14 2:19pm
State News basketball reporters Matt Sheehan and Zach Smith offer their predictions for tonight’s contest versus Indiana.
This game could go one of two ways:
1) Indiana star guard Yogi Ferrell gets hot and keeps Indiana in the game, or
2) Ferrell gets shut down by MSUs’ defense and the No. 3 Spartans cruise to a home victory.
If I was a betting man (I am, kind of), I would put money on the Spartans, who have the nation’s 7th-best defense — holding opponents to 37.7 percent shooting — to contain Ferrell.
Why am I harping so much on Indiana’s sophomore guard? It’s simple — the Hoosiers go as far as he does.
In their upset win over then-No. 3 Wisconsin, Ferrell hit up the Badgers for 25 points.
On the flip side, he shot 2-for-14 in their embarrassing home loss to Northwestern.
If there is one team in the conference that can shut him down, it’s the team with defensive menaces Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson.
However, Ferrell is only a major piece of Indiana’s puzzle, not the only one. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh will look to tear up the Adreian Payne-less Spartans, and he very well could with his natural rebounding instinct and ability to stretch the floor.
Even if Vonleh does get hot, MSU has more than enough weapons to combat Indiana’s attacks on the opposite end of the floor.
The Izzone will be rocking, Hoosier head coach Tom Crean will scream so loud his head will explode and the Spartans will put the game away mid way through the second half.
And do you know what that means? That means this Saturday’s game against No. 21 Michigan could be a battle between the Big Ten’s two undefeated teams. Get your vocal cords ready, kids.
MSU: Tacos (70) Indiana: 61
Not to beat a dead horse, but Gary Harris is on another level when he’s playing Indiana.
The sophomore guard averaged 20 points per game against the Hoosiers last season, then backed that up with a career-high 26-point performance in Bloomington earlier this season.
I don’t expect anything different tonight.
The explosive sophomore, coupled with the most turnover prone offense
in the Big Ten will help MSU roll.
The prospect of stopping the Big Ten’s No. 3 scorer in Yogi Ferrell will be a tough job, especially as the Spartans will most likely be without the services of senior forward Adreian Payne.
Still, junior forward Alex Gauna and sophomore forward Matt Costello have filled the space left by the senior leader.
They’ll have to buckle down to stop Farrell and forward Noah Vonleh, the leading rebounder in the Big Ten.
It’s a big week for MSU and the Izzone, with ESPN College Game Day and Michigan wrapping up the week on Saturday, so Breslin Center will be rockin’ tonight.
The battle will be between Harris and Ferrell, and the winner of that war will turn the tide of the game.
MSU: 77 Indiana: 65
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 01/18/14 2:33pm
Spartan fans, expect to be at the edge of your seat tonight.
So far in Big Ten play, Illinois has been demolished by Wisconsin, beaten by Northwestern and is fresh off a home loss against Purdue. Needless to say, things aren’t too great in Champaign, Ill., but that’s what makes them dangerous tonight.
The Fighting Illini are going to be playing at home desperate for a win, and what would be a more important win than taking one from the No. 4 Spartans?
They will play with heart (cliche, I know) in front of a rowdy home crowd that always brings the ruckus when MSU steps onto their court.
On the flip side, MSU has had a problem starting off hot against weaker teams.
This was shown against Northwestern and Penn State already this season, but playing in State Farm Center in front of a blood-thirsty team will make it harder to have a late comeback.
However, MSU is still has one of the nation’s best squads. If they can contain 6-foot-6 guard Joseph Bertrand and Fighting Illini leading scorer Rayvonte Rice, the Spartans will win with one of the healthiest lineups they have had in a while, despite Adreian Payne likely out with a sprained foot.
I’m thinking MSU comes out flat in the first half, but quickly realizes they cannot take Illinois for granted and fights back in the second half to squeak away with a victory.
MSU: 68 Illinois: 67
By Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith
Last updated: 01/15/14 2:28pm
State News basketball reporters Zach Smith and Matt Sheehan offer their predictions for tonight’s MSU-Northwestern game.
One of the best teams in the country against one of the worst teams in the country sounds like it would be a boring game, and this won’t fail to disappoint.
Northwestern lost three of its first four Big Ten games by huge margins, then came back and beat a ranked team by 6.
The only player MSU really needs to worry about is guard Drew Crawford, who has started every game for Northwestern and averages more than 15 points per game.
But by far the biggest mismatch in the game will be the battle between senior guard Keith Appling and Wildcat guard Dave Sobolewski, who leads the team with 51 assists on the year.
But statistically speaking Northwestern is one of the worst shooting teams in the country, and I don’t expect it to get any better against the Spartans.
MSU will most likely be without the services of senior forward Adreian Payne and junior forward Branden Dawson, but that won’t stop the Spartans from dominating the hapless Wildcats.
I see this being a double digit game the whole way, with the Spartans winning by as much as 20 points.
Appling and sophomore guard Gary Harris will scorch the Wildcat defense, while sophomores Matt Costello and Denzel Valentine will hold them down on the defensive end.
MSU: 81 Northwestern: 62
I’ve spent the last dozen hours or so thinking of scenarios where Northwestern can beat No. 4 MSU, and I’ve finally came up with my conclusion — they can’t.
Sure, over the weekend the Wildcats beat then-No. 23 Illinois in what could be the ugliest Big Ten game of the season so far, but miracles don’t happen twice in the same week unless you are birthing twins.
Let’s rattle off some stats that are attached to the Wildcats:
-325th in the nation in points per game with 63.7, meaning they don’t average tacos.
-320th in the nation in field goal percentage with 40.5 percent. Nine Spartans shoot higher than that, and sophomore guard Gary Harris is .1 percent away from bringing that list up to ten.
-225th in the nation in rebounding with 34.5. It will be a tough match-up against the Spartans, who rank 13th in the nation with 40.5 boards per game.
Even if senior forward Adreian Payne and junior forward Branden Dawson don’t play tonight, the Spartans should steamroll Northwestern on their home court.
Of course upsets happen, but if the Spartans lose this wouldn’t be an upset — this would be an MSU catastrophe that would make every couch in Cedar Village sweat.
MSU: 80 Northwestern: 55
By Zach Smith
Last updated: 01/14/14 6:03pm
Keith Appling has been lighting it up on the basketball court all season, but there’s more to the senior guard than meets the eye.
In his final semester at MSU, Appling is in a coaching baseball class, taught by MSU baseball coach Jake Boss Jr.
He said there’s no way he’d trade in his sneakers for a bat and ball, but he’s expecting to have fun in the course.
“I would never go out and play baseball, but I’m a fan,” Appling said. “We’ve only had one class so far because of all the snow days. I’m just taking the class so I can get my degree.”
There have been many two sport Spartan athletes.
Kirk Gibson was a star in both football and baseball, and more recently, Matt Trannon was a wide receiver on the football team before slipping on a basketball jersey once the football season was over.
The Detroit native said he doesn’t have an answer to ‘Who’s your Tiger?’ but the feeling he got when he went to the ballpark was one of his favorite activities when he was still at home.
“I don’t really have a favorite (player),” he said. “It was just a hometown team. It was so close to where I lived that I had an opportunity to get to a lot of different games. I really liked being in the atmosphere of Tiger Stadium”