With the Michigan State basketball team kicking off the regular season in ten days at home against McNeese State and an exhibition versus Grand valley State on October 29th, isportsweb.com has put together a season preview with predictions for the Michigan State basketball 2013-2014 season.
Below are the thoughts of isportsweb’s Spartan beat writers James Edwards and Ryan Squanda:
Big Ten Tournament: Win the Tournament
NCAA Tournament: Win National Championship
Big Ten Tournament: Win the Tournament
NCAA Tournament: Final Four
Edwards: Gary Harris, sophomore, SG
Gary Harris’ offensive arsenal is as diversified as they come, and according to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, he’s one half of the “best defensive backcourt in the country.” The do-it-all sophomore from Fishers, Ind., will lead the Spartans in points and steals this season, and will average at least four rebounds per game from the two-guard position. Harris suffered numerous injuries during his freshman campaign, and despite playing most of the year at less than 100 percent, he still averaged nearly 13 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field
With a full summer to rehab, get stronger and work on his game, Harris will make an immediate impact – despite an ankle injury that caused him to miss some time over the past few weeks – and show why he would have been a first-round pick in the NBA draft if he would have chose to enter after last season.
There isn’t much he can’t do on a basketball court, and as long as he stays healthy, there is no reason why his name shouldn’t continuously be in national player of the year gossip.
Squanda: Adreian Payne, senior, C
After spending a lot of time contemplating whether or not to return to East Lansing for his senior year, the 6-foot-10, 245 pound big man from Dayton, Ohio decided to come back to earn his degree and play for a National Championship.
Last year was a break out season of sorts for Payne. Midway through the season, Payne suddenly became more aggressive, going after more rebounds and looking to score more often, finishing the year averaging 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. He even extended his range out past the 3-point line, where he finished the season shooting 38 percent.
While Gary Harris may be the most talented player on this MSU Basketball roster, Payne may very well be the most valuable player.
On a team that lacks devastating height (The 6-foot-10 Payne is the tallest player on the team), the way Payne plays down low in the paint on both offense and defense will be huge. Over the course of his career at Michigan State, he has shown his ability to be a rim protector of sorts. In his first three years in East Lansing, Payne has used his 38 inch vertical and 7-foot-4 wingspan to block 113 shots, 22 short of the MSU record.
If Payne can rebound, defend and score like the way he did in the second half of last season, he will play a big part in the Spartans’ success this season.
Edwards: Travis Trice, junior, PG
Travis Trice, like Harris, is another guy who has had issues staying healthy over the past 12 months. Now, with an injury-free summer to his name, Trice should be ready to give the Spartans a consistent three-point threat as well as a very good distributor at the point guard position.
Trice, who is the backup to point guard Keith Appling, was named “most improved” by Izzo during Michigan State’s media day last week, and after gaining 20-plus pounds over the summer, he said he feels “stronger” and “doesn’t get as tired easy.”
While Trice shot 40 percent from three-point range last season, he shot exponentially lower from inside the arc, and after speaking to him on media day, that is something that he really focused on during the offseason.
Squanda: Travis Trice, junior, PG
Like Edwards said, on media day Izzo said that while everybody on the team has gotten better on the team from a year ago, the guy who would have to be the most improved would have to go to Travis Trice.
After sitting out all of last summer due to a mysterious illness and missing some games after a broken nose and some concussions, Trice has finally had a sustained period of time to work on his game, get stronger and improve.
A year after point guard Keith Appling had to log tons of minutes due to Trice’s missed time, Appling’s productivity really tapered off at the end of the season. Not only will Trice bring more to the floor with his much improved play, but he will also be able to give Appling some much needed rest with some solid point guard play when the season begins.
FRESHMAN TO WATCH:
Edwards: Gavin Schilling, PF
While I think Michigan State’s other freshman, Alvin Ellis III, will have a very successful career in East Lansing, Gavin Schilling will make the biggest impact for the Spartans because of the position that he plays. Ellis is competing for minutes at the guard position – MSU’s deepest position this year – and Schilling will be battling for minutes at a center position that is the only spot currently up for grabs in the starting lineup.
Schilling – standing at 6-foot-9, 240-pounds – is a very athletic, tough player that Izzo has compared to ex-Spartans Antonio Smith and Andre Hutson. It will be interesting to see how the starting center position turns out when the regular season starts, and even though sophomore Matt Costello and junior Alex Gauna have more experience than Schilling, his scrappiness and willingness to work could have him playing solid minutes for the Spartans this year.
Squanda: Kenny Kaminski, F
A year after sitting out a redshirt season due to a shoulder injury, the 6-foot-8, 235 pound forward is finally ready for some Division 1 Big Ten Basketball.
It remains to be seen just how much of an impact Kaminski will make this year but much has been made of his shooting ability and his potential to help spread the floor. Last year in the second half of the season, Kaminski displayed his shooting stroke in practice, at times playing parts on the scout team such as Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas.
However, in order for Kaminski to see significant playing time in his freshman campaign, Izzo says Kaminski must improve defensively.
It’s a championship-or-bust season for the Michigan State Spartans this year. With three guys that are potential first-round NBA selections, and a veteran unit, Izzo’s team shouldn’t be content with anything less than a national title. Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Spartans have athleticism, shooting, depth and experience, all of the ingredients needed to make a national championship run.
In conclusion, this Michigan State Basketball team has all the makings of being an all-time team. A year in which both seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne will be looking to get to a Final Four to continue Izzo’s streak of all four-year players making it to one, they certainly have all the tools to do so. With veteran NBA talent, team chemistry that’s off the charts, depth, and one of the best coaches in the nation, the Spartans could very well find themselves making another deep run in March.
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandaryan
Follow James Edwards III on Twitter @J_Edwards_MSU