Skip to content

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 1 Michigan State Spartans

Nov 1, 2013, 9:18 AM EST

Tom Izzo AP

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 27-9, 13-5 Big Ten (t-2nd); Lost to Duke in the Sweet 16

Head Coach: Tom Izzo (19th season at Michigan State: 437-176 overall, 209-95 Big Ten)

Key Losses: Derrick Nix, Brandon Kearney

Newcomers: Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis

Projected Lineup

- G: Keith Appling, Sr.
G: Gary Harris, So.
F: Denzel Valentine, So.
F: Branden Dawson, Jr.
C: Adreian Payne, Sr.
Bench: Travis Trice, Jr.; Gavin Schilling, Fr.; Alex Gauna, Jr.; Russell Byrd, Jr.; Kenny Kaminiski, Fr.; Matt Costello, So.

They’ll be good because …: Beyond the fact they have Tom Izzo as their head coach, this group is finally going to be healthy this season. Most importantly, Gary Harris is going to look like Gary Harris. Last season, Izzo’s star recruit missed the first two games of the year before deciding to grit his way through a painful injury to his left shoulder that made it tough for him to drive to his right and forced him to settle for being a jump-shooter. He’s good in that role; he’s an all-american at full strength, and he’ll be at full strength when the season kicks off in exactly one week.

Harris isn’t the only guy that used his time off to heal up. Branden Dawson rushed his way back from a torn ACL that he suffered at the end of his freshman season. He was, technically, healthy, but a summer spent rehabbing meant that he didn’t get a chance to develop his game. This offseason he did. The same can be said for Travis Trice, who has dealt with a myriad of issues — a brain infection, a couple of concussions, a broken nose — in the last 15 months. With those three at full strength, the Spartans get that much scarier.

source:

AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: The Spartans have some question marks with two of their most important players this season. Let’s start with Keith Appling, a former McDonald’s all-american that has spent most of the past two seasons trying to make the transition into being a full-time point guard. He’s had some success, averaging 13.3 points and 3.3 assists last year, but the consistency just hasn’t been there. He’s not a natural playmaker; his first inclination is, and always has been, to score, and his struggles led to some of Michigan State’s worst performances a season ago. Will he finally embrace the role that Izzo is asking him to play this season?

The other issue is Adreian Payne. Payne shot up NBA Draft boards this past season thanks to some terrific performances in a couple of Michigan State’s biggest games, and with his ridiculous athleticism and ability to step out and hit threes, the potential is there to warrant a first round pick come June. But Payne has made a career out of being inconsistent. He’s coming off of a junior season where he averaged all of 10.5 points and 7.6 boards, and it was the first time in his tenure in East Lansing where he came anywhere near living up to his ability. This is the guy that the Spartans are relying on to be an all-american? Maybe it finally clicked for Payne this summer. Maybe he’ll come out and average 15 points, 10 boards, 3 blocks and shoot 44% from three. But he wasn’t a freshman last year. He was a junior. Old habits die hard, you know?

Outlook: Tom Izzo does what he can to downplay the expectations that have been placed on his team this season, but there’s no denying the fact that the Spartans are going to enter the year as the favorite to win the Big Ten and one of a handful of teams expected to be competing for a national title come March. They have a potential first-team all-american on the roster in Harris. They have another potential first round pick in Payne. Dawson and Denzel Valentine make up a versatile set of forwards, and Appling has plenty of raw ability. Throw in a healthy Trice and a handful of back up big men that, at the very least, will provide Izzo with 10-15 fouls in the paint, and Michigan State is loaded on paper.

But in order for the Spartans to live up to those expectations, they are relying on a number of guys to make an improvement. Appling needs to be a better point guard. Harris and Dawson need to improve now that they’re healthy. Payne needs to be more consistent. That’s a lot of moving parts, meaning that 80% of Izzo’s starting lineup head into the season as an ‘if’.

Having said all of that, keep in mind that Michigan State returns all but one contributor from a team that finished tied for second in the loaded Big Ten and spent most of the year ranked in the top ten. ‘If’ all of those ‘ifs’ work out, ‘if’ Michigan State really is that much better than they were a season ago, that’s a scary thought.

Latest Posts
  1. Virginia’s Justin Anderson could return as early as Saturday

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:41 AM EST

    Justin Anderson (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Justin Anderson has been out for more than three weeks after fracturing a finger.

  2. Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    uni Getty Images

    Two strong teams enter the Valley Conference Tournament with numerous others trying to enter the frame.

  3. Karl Towns takes over, No. 1 Kentucky moves to 30-0

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:26 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kentucky is learning how to win games when they don’t play well. That’s scary.

  4. No. 9 Kansas rallies to beat No. 20 West Virginia in OT but injury to Perry Ellis is major concern

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:58 PM EST

    (AP) AP

    No. 9 Kansas topped No. 20 West Virginia but now the Jayhawks must worry about the health of Perry Ellis.

  5. Cincinnati guard granted release; will likely be a graduate transfer

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Cincinnati could be losing an experienced guard for next season.

  6. Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell among 10 finalists for Wayman Tisdale Award as nation’s best freshman

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A lot of productive players on the Wayman Tisdale Award finalist list, led by Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell.

  7. America East Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:52 PM EST

    AP AP

    Albany is looking for its third NCAA tournament appearance in as many years. Stony Brook is attempting to once again get over that conference tournament hump.

  8. Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s Frank Kaminsky’s award to win

    Mar 3, 2015, 3:47 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Kaminsky has all but locked up the award in my mind.

  9. Ohio Valley Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:32 PM EST

    Murray State's Cameron Payne (AP) AP

    Murray State rolled through the OVC unbeaten and enters the conference tournament as the heavy favorite.

  10. Duke AD defends handling of allegations against Rasheed Sulaimon

    Mar 3, 2015, 1:36 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Rasheed Sulaimon was reportedly publicly accused of sexual assault.

  11. Butler gets starting forward back from broken hand

    Mar 3, 2015, 12:54 PM EST

    Villanova v Butler Getty Images

    Andrew Chrabascz had missed the last two weeks with a broken hand

  12. Big South Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    John Brown Getty Images) Getty Images

    A three-game margin separated the top seven teams, so don’t be surprised if things don’t go according to the seeds in Conway, South Carolina.

  13. Dan Patrick Show: Frank Kaminsky joins to talk about his senior year (VIDEO)

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:42 AM EST

    Frank Kaminsky, David Rivers, Walter Pitchford AP

    The National Player of the Year talks hoops, soccer and senior years.

  14. ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’ trailer released (VIDEO)

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:12 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Last year, the college hoops 30 for 30 was “Requiem for the Big East”.

  15. NEC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 9:15 AM EST

    Jalen Cannon (AP Photo) Jalen Cannon (AP Photo)

    Can St. Francis (NY) land their first-ever NCAA tournament berth?