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MICHIGAN STATE PLAYS AT ILLINOIS

January 18, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



SPARTANS PRESS

#4/4 Michigan State (16-1, 5-0) vs. Illinois (13-5, 2-3)
 Date Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014
 Time 8 p.m. ET
 Location Champaign, Ill. | State Farm Center
 Television BTN (Eric Collins, Jim Jackson)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Game Notes Michigan State
 Statistics  Michigan State | Illinois
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

THE OPENING TIP
Having matched the best one-loss start in school history, Michigan State travels to Illinois for the second road game in the state this week. Despite starting nine different lineups in the last 12 games, MSU is a perfect 8-0 away from Breslin Center this season, but will face an Illini squad that is 9-1 at home.

THE STARTING FIVE
1. Spartans Away From Home

Michigan State is a perfect 8-0 away from home this season, including 4-0 on an opponent's home court. It marks the first time in school history that MSU has won its first seven games away from East Lansing. The Spartans are scoring 78.2 points per game away from Breslin Center, with four players averaging 13 points or more (Gary Harris-18.9 ppg, Keith Appling-15.8 ppg, Adreian Payne-15.7 ppg, Branden Dawson-13.0 ppg). By winning at Penn State and Indiana to open conference play, it marked the first time since 2008-09 and just the second time in school history that MSU opened league play with a 2-0 record with both games on the road. MSU has won each of its four road games by 14 points or more, marking the first time in school history it has accomplished that feat during the same season. MSU has been especially dominant in the second half of road games, out-scoring opponents by an average of +14.25 points after halftime.

2. Different Ways To Win
With its 54-40 win at Northwestern, Michigan State proved it could win a low-scoring contest with its defense. But MSU has also shown it can win with a potent offense. In fact, MSU has now won games when scoring in the 50's (1), 60's (2), 70's (5), 80's (3), 90's (4), and 100's (1). Wisconsin and Michigan State are the only teams to accomplish this feat in the Big Ten, and one of just seven schools to do it nationally, joining Connecticut, Florida State, Marquette, Norfolk State and Tennessee Tech.

3. Spartans Off To Record Start
With a 16-1 record, the 2013-14 Spartans have matched the 1931 and 2001 teams for the best 17-game starts in school history. The 1931 squad finished the season at 16-1, while the 2001 team dropped its 18th game at Ohio State.

4. Taking Care Of The Ball
Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzoera. MSU is currently averaging 11.0 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. The Spartans are 11-0 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent. MSU is averaging 7.0 turnovers in its last two games against Minnesota and Northwestern. MSU ranks third in the Big Ten in turnover margin (+2.8), out-scoring opponents by +4.6 points per game (17.2-12.6).

5. Izzo Moves Up Big Ten Coaching List
With MSU's next win, Tom Izzowill past Illinois' Lou Henson for sole possesion of fourth place on the Big Ten career victories list with 215 wins. In MSU's 73-56 win at Indiana, Izzo moved past IU's Branch McCracken for fifth place on the career Big Ten victories list with 211. Indiana's Bob Knight is the all-time leader with 353 Big Ten wins.

MSU VS. ILLINOIS NOTES
Series History

The all-time series between Michigan State and Illinois is tied, 56-56. The Fighting Illini own a 37-17 advantage in Champaign. MSU has won seven of the last 10 against Illinois and nine of the last 13. The last 15 games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less. Tom Izzois 19-14 in his career against the Illini.

Coach Groce
John Groce (Taylor, '94) is 121-74 in his sixth season as a head coach, including 36-18 in his second season at Illinois. Prior to his arrival in Champaign, Groce spent four seasons at Ohio University, leading the Bobcats to an 85-56 mark. In 2011-12, he directed Ohio to a 29-8 record, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. His coaching career includes stints as an assistant at Taylor, North Carolina State, Butler, Xavier and Ohio State.

The Last Meeting
Michigan State defeated Illinois, 80-75, on Jan. 31, 2013. Illinois scored the first eight points of the game and held the lead for entire first half. MSU trimmed the deficit to three points with under three minutes left, but the Illini scored the next seven points in taking a 37-27 halftime lead. Turnovers were the story of the first half, as MSU committed nine, while Illinois committed only one. The Spartans opened the second half on a 14-0 run, as Illinois committed four turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half. MSU never led by more than eight points, but Illinois could never retake the lead. The Spartans were remarkably efficient in the second half, making 87.5 percent (14-of-16) of their shots. The two teams combined for three free throw attempts in the first half and 46 in the second half. Keith Applingled all scorers with 24 points, including 19 in the second half, as he scored or assisted on 11 of MSU's 14 second-half field goals. Tracy Abrams led Illinois with 16 points.

The Last Meeting In Champaign
Illinois defeated Michigan State, 42-41, on Jan. 31, 2012, in Champaign. The Spartans took a 40-37 lead with 2:39 left. On Illinois' next possession, Tracy Abrams tied the contest with a 3-pointer. MSU missed a 3-pointer and Brandon Paul hit two free throws on Illinois' next possession following an offensive rebound, taking a 42-40 lead. Draymond Green missed the final 3:49 of the game with a knee injury, scoring a season-low five points. Branden Dawsonled MSU with 12 points and a then-career-high 13 rebounds. Paul led Illinois with 18 points. MSU shot a season-low .241 from the field in scoring 41 points, its lowest total since 2008.

Illini Notes
Rayvonte Rice ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (17.7 ppg) ... Nnanna Egwu ranks third in the Big Ten in blocks (2.2 bpg) ... Illinois ranks third in the Big Ten in turnovers, committing just 10.0 per contest ... The Illini have allowed 70 or more points just three times this season, and rank third in the conference in scoring defense (62.9 ppg) ... Tracy Abrams has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games.

GM. 17 RECAP • MICHIGAN STATE 54 - NORTHWESTERN 40
Michigan State used a strong defensive effort to defeat Northwestern, 54-40, in Evanston. The first half featured six ties and four lead changes as neither squad led by more than four points. MSU shot 11-16 (.688) from two-point range in the first half, but just 1-11 (.091) from behind the arc, while Northwestern shot just .310 from the field, but did connect on four three pointers. The Spartans continued to struggle offensively in the second half, shooting just .320, but they clamped down defensively, limiting the Wildcats to .235 shooting, including .125 from three-point range. Still, MSU couldn't shake the Wildcats through most of the half, holding a 40-35 with 10:06 remaining. That's when the Spartans ramped up the defense even more, slowing pulling away with a 10-2 run over the next 5:07. MSU's defense allowed just five points and one field goal in the final 10 minutes, including no field goals after the 7:17 mark.

MSU VS. NORTHWESTERN NOTES
* Michigan State shot 11-16 (.688) from two-point range in the first half, but just 1-11 (.091) from behind the arc.
* MSU's defense allowed just five points and one field goal in the final 10 minutes, including no field goals after the 7:17 mark.
* MSU was out-rebounded by three in the first half (17-20), but held a plus-seven advantage (22-15) in the second half.
* Alex Gauna scored a season-high eight points, all coming in the second half, to match his career high.
* Branden Dawson grabbed 11 rebounds, his highest total since grabbing 13 against Oakland on Dec. 14.
* Tom Izzo tied Lou Henson for fourth place in Big Ten history with 214 career wins.
* MSU grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, resulting in a 12-2 advantage in second-chance points.

MSU BASKETBALL NOTES
Appling Paces The Big Ten

Keith Applinghas elevated his all-around play as a senior and is proving to be among the most dominating performers in the Big Ten, and, in fact, the country. Appling leads the conference with four games in which he's tallied at least 20 points and seven assists. The rest of the conference has just four occasions, and Appling ranks tied for third in the country, trailing Providence's Bryce Cotton and Green Bay's Keifer Sykes (5). The Spartan senior also paces the Big Ten with three games of at least 20 points, 7 assists and five rebounds, ranking tied for second in the nation, trailing only Delaware's Jarvis Threatt (4). (National totals through games of Jan. 12.)

Lending A Helping Hand
Michigan State is averaging 18.2 assists on the season, pacing the Big Ten and ranking third in the nation. With 309 assists on 493 made field goals, the Spartans are recording an assist on 62.7 percent of their baskets. MSU ranks second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) (NCAA stats through Jan. 12). Keith Appling is third in the conference in assists (4.6 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4). Five Spartans average two or more assists as Denzel Valentine (3.9 apg), Gary Harris (2.9 apg), Travis Trice (2.3 apg), and Branden Dawson(2.0 apg) join Appling.

Spartans Hit The Mark
Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .475. The Spartans have shot 50 percent or better in seven games, including a season-high .631 against Mount St. Mary's. Against North Florida, MSU shot 70.8 percent in the first half. MSU has shot better than its opponent in all but one game this season.

Renewed Defensive Commitment
Following Michigan State's loss to North Carolina, Coach Izzo took the blame on himself, feeling he overreacted to some of the new rules designed to limit physical play and increase scoring, and vowed to correct that. In the nine games since the loss, MSU is holding its opponents to 59.9 points and a .362 field-goal percentage, including .301 from 3-point range. In a related stat regarding MSU's return to basics, the Spartans own a +8.0 rebounding margin over the last nine games. During this stretch, MSU has played five games away from home, including at Texas and Indiana, and owns a home win over No. 3 Ohio State.

Three 15-Point Scorers
With Gary Harris (17.6 ppg), Adreian Payne (16.2 ppg) and Keith Appling(16.1 ppg), Michigan State is one of just five schools in the nation with three 15-point scorers. Other schools include Iowa State, VMI, Delaware, and Temple.

Big Ten Success
Michigan State has captured at least a share of the Big Ten Championship in three of the last five seasons. After winning the title outright in 2009, the Spartans shared the conference crown in 2010 and 2012. In 2012, MSU also added a Big Ten Tournament title to its resume. During Tom Izzo'stenure, the Spartans have won seven regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.

Big Ten Success, Part II
Michigan State has won 13 Big Ten Championships, including three of the last five, since joining the league prior to the 1950-51 season. The Spartans' first ever league game was at Northwestern, where MSU claimed a 67-62 victory on Jan. 6, 1951. All-time, MSU is 572-455 (.557) in league play, including 214-95 (.693) under Tom Izzo, who ranks tied for fourth in league history with 214 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to seven of its 13 league crowns. Since Izzo's first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 214-95, 18.5 games better than second-place Wisconsin (195-113).

Rotating Starting Lineup
Michigan State has used nine different starting lineups in the last 12 games. A large part of the past rotating door has been the various injuries/illnesses to strike the Spartans. Most notably, Gary Harris missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland, North Florida) in a four-game stretch with an ankle injury and also did not start at Texas. However, he's averaging 19.3 points in his last four games. Also of note, Matt Costello started six of the first eight games of the season, but then missed four straight with mononucleosis before playing 12 minutes against Penn State. Branden Dawson sat out the New Orleans game with a shin bruise and Travis Trice missed the North Florida game with foot blisters and the Ohio State game due to illness. In addition, Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling(hip pointer) missed significant amounts of practice in early/mid December, while Payne is currently dealing with a right foot sprain which forced him to miss the Minnesota and Northwestern contests.

Payne From Deep
Through the first 87 games of his career, Adreian Payneshot just 1-of-4 from 3-point range. Over the last 35 games, he is 34-of-82 (.415), averaging nearly one made 3-pointer per contest. On nine occasions, including six times this season, he's made more than one in a game.

Comeback Kids
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring margin (+16.6), but that doesn't mean it isn't capable of a comeback. The Spartans have overcome deficits of 10 or more points three times, and deficits of seven or more points six times. MSU is a perfect 5-0 when trailing at the half.

Double-Double Trouble
Four different Spartans have collected a total of 11 double-doubles this season. Branden Dawson (vs. McNeese State 12 pts., 12 reb.; vs. Virginia Tech 12 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oklahoma 18 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oakland 16 pts., 13 reb.; vs. Texas 11 pts., 10 reb.) leads the team with five, while Adreian Payne (vs. McNeese State 10 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Columbia 26 pts., 11 reb.; vs. Virginia Tech 29 pts., 10 reb.; vs. Oakland 20 pts., 10 reb.) has four. Gary Harris (vs. McNeese State 20 pts., 10 reb.) and Denzel Valentine(vs. New Orleans 10 points, 13 rebounds) each have one. Dawson ranks third in the Big Ten, while Payne is tied for fourth.

Guard Rebounds
For the Spartans to maintain their reputation as a strong rebounding team, they will need a strong effort from their guards. In fact, four of MSU's five leading rebounders play on the perimeter. Branden Dawson is averaging a team-best 8.9 rebounds, ranking third in the Big Ten, from the wing. Denzel Valentine (5.6 rpg) ranks third on the team, Gary Harris (4.6 rpg) ranks fourth and Keith Applingranks fifth (3.6 rpg). Either Dawson or Valentine has led the Spartans in rebounding in 14 of 17 games.

Outside Shooting
Michigan State is shooting .387 from 3-point range (134-of-346), ranking second in the Big Ten. Four Spartans (Gary Harris-32, Keith Appling-28, Travis Trice-21, Adreian Payne-18) each average more than one made 3-pointer per game. Individually, Appling ranks second in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.459), while Payne ranks fourth (.439) and Trice ranks fifth (.429). The Spartans have made 10 or more 3-pointers in seven games, after doing it just once last season, ranking third in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals per game (7.9). Last season, the Spartans shot .338 from 3-point range, hitting 177-of-523. The 2003-04 squad was the best shooting team of the Tom Izzoera, shooting .401, while the 1989-90 squad shot a school-record .431.

20-Point Spartans
Four different Spartans have scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Keith Appling (27 vs. New Orleans, 27 vs. Oklahoma, 25 vs. Portland, 24 vs. Minnesota, 22 vs. Kentucky, 21 vs. Oakland, 20 vs. Ohio State) leads the way with seven 20-point efforts, while Adreian Payne (33 vs. Texas, 29 vs. Virginia Tech, 26 vs. Columbia, 20 vs. Oakland) and Gary Harris (26 vs. Indiana, 21 vs. Oklahoma, 20 vs. McNeese State, 20 vs. Kentucky) each have four. Branden Dawsonjoined the club with 20 points vs. Penn State in the Big Ten opener.

On The Run
Michigan State is eager to get out in transition this season, even more so than normal. Speaking at MSU's annual media day, Izzo told the assembled media "I think we should be a team that can run, run, run and run." Through 17 games, MSU is averaging 80.5 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten, including 17.0 points in transition. This includes a dominating 21-2 edge in fast break points against Kentucky.

Spartans At The Charity Stripe
Michigan State is shooting .705 from the foul line this season. The three Spartans that attempt the most free throws (Appling-93 attempts, .753; Payne-61 attempts, .803; Harris-66 attempts, .848) are each shooting 75 percent or better from the foul line. In fact, the three are shooting a combined .795 (175-220) from the foul line.

Payne's Senior Season
After opting to bypass the NBA Draft and return to Michigan State, Adreian Payneis determined to make the most of his senior season. A preseason first-team All-American as selected by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, and one of 15 players on the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Payne ranks third on the team in scoring (16.2 ppg) and second in rebounding (7.9 rpg). He's posted a double-double in four games this season and 10 of his last 26 dating back to last season. Against Texas, he scored a career-high 33 points. He ranks ninth in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in rebounding. He's captured Big Ten Player of the Week honors twice this season (Nov. 18 and Dec. 23). He's missed the last two games while resting a sprained foot.

Appling Runs The Team
Senior Keith Applingis in his third season as Michigan State's starting point guard, gaining more confidence each season. He's finished in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in assists in each of the last two seasons, but he spoke this offseason about becoming better at running his team, gaining praise from Coach Izzo for his development. He's averaging a career-best 4.6 assists per game and owns a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. In a win over No. 1 Kentucky, Appling dished out eight assists, in addition to his 22 points and eight rebounds. Coach Izzo described Appling's 25-point, seven-assist effort vs. Portland "one of the greatest point guard performances in many, many, many years when you look at what he shot and the decisions he made. He did just an unbelievable job defensively ... He was worth the price of admission." He paced MSU with a career-high 27 points vs. Oklahoma, earning Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic MVP honors. He scored a team-high 21 points vs. Oakland, including 18 points in the second half. Recently, he matched his career high with 27 points against New Orleans, adding eight assists, earning co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Dec. 30. In an overtime win against No. 3 Ohio State, Appling led the Spartans in scoring (20 points) and assists (7) and tied for the team lead in rebounds (6). He followed with a game-high 24 points vs. Minnesota, including eight points (8-8 FT) in overtime.

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of MSU's first of 16 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 178 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (163), Kentucky (155), Duke (154), and Connecticut (144).

Super Subs
Travis Trice and Denzel Valentineare not normally in the starting lineup when MSU has its full complement of players, but in the eyes of Coach Izzo, they might as well be. Izzo has regularly referred to the duo as "super subs." Valentine ranks sixth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and fifth in minutes (27.5 mpg), while Trice ranks fifth in scoring (7.3 ppg) and sixth in minutes (21.1 mpg). Valentine (3.9 apg) is second in assist average, while Trice (2.3 apg) is fourth.

Spartan Spurtability
MSU's dynamic offense has shown the ability to score points in bunches. During the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn, the Spartans closed the first half on both games with large runs. Against Virginia Tech, MSU had a 15-3 run over the final 4:18. The next day, MSU closed the Oklahoma first half on a 34-9 run over the final 10:38, including a 13-0 spurt over the final 4:36. MSU has also shown the ability to start with a burst, opening the Kentucky game with a 10-0 run, and a 9-0 run vs. Columbia. MSU used a 19-2 run over two halves to put Mount St. Mary's away. Against North Florida, MSU opened the contest with a 21-4 spurt, that included an 11-0 run. A 14-2 run midway through the second half turned a two point deficit against Texas into a 10-point lead. In a 53-point win over New Orleans, the Spartans posted a 21-0 second-half run, along with two 12-0 first-half spurts. In the Big Ten opener at Penn State, MSU opened the second half with a 10-0 run, and put the game away with a 20-3 spurt. At Indiana, MSU had a 15-1 run over the final 2:48 of the first half and first 2:24 of the second half, after a 10-0 run earlier in the first half. A 13-2 second half run seemed to give MSU enough of a cushion against Ohio State. MSU used a 15-0 run vs. Minnesota to turn a 10-point deficit into a five point advantage with a 15-0 run during a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second half.

An Efficient Harris
Following a season that saw him earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, Gary Harrisis looking for an even better season as a sophomore. After opting to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season rather than enter the NBA Draft, Harris entered 2013-14 as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honoree and a popular pick for preseason All-America accolades. He opened the season by recording his first career double-double with 20 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing out a career-high six assists. He followed that effort with another 20-point contest against No. 1 Kentucky. He leads the team in scoring and ranks fourth in the Big Ten, averaging 17.6 points per contest, scoring 20 or more points in four games. He missed three games (Mount St. Mary's, Oakland and North Florida) while resting an injured ankle, but is averaging 17.6 points in seven games since his return.

Spartan Defense
Michigan State has held opponents below 40 percent shooting for the year in each of the last two seasons, limiting opponents to .390 FG% last year (ranking 22nd in the nation) and .379 FG% in 2011-12 (ranking second in the nation). It's the first time the Spartans have held opponents below 40 percent in back-to-back seasons since MSU did it three straight seasons from 1999-2000 to 2001-02. MSU's first 17 opponents are shooting .377 from the floor, ranking second in the Big Ten, including .311 from 3-point range, ranking seventh. In conference games, MSU ranks first in scoring defense (60.4 ppg) and second in field-goal percentage defense (.379)

Dawson's Energy On Display
Branden Dawsondidn't miss a game last season despite tearing his ACL at the end of his freshman year, and yet he wasn't functioning at 100 percent. Early indications in 2013-14 are that Dawson is a much more active player, exhibiting the rare combination of strength and athleticism that rank him among the Big Ten's elite. He is currently averaging a team-best 8.9 rebounds, ranking third in the Big Ten and leading the team in 11 of 16 games in which he's played, and 10.1 points. His tip-in with five seconds remaining sealed the win over No. 1 Kentucky. Dawson leads the team with five double-doubles. He also ranks fourth in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.600).

Payne's Block Party
Senior Adreian Payne ranks second in Michigan State history with 128 career blocks, just six behind MSU career leader Drew Naymick(134 blocks). Payne blocked a career-best five shots in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament against Memphis, en route to 46 on the season, good for the sixth-best single-season effort in school history.

Nation's Best Backcourt
With Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson in the starting lineup and Travis Trice and Denzel Valentinecoming off the bench, Michigan State stakes a strong claim for having the nation's best backcourt. All five rank among MSU's top six in scoring, while Appling, Harris, Dawson and Trice have each scored 20 or more points at least once during their career. Not only are they dynamic offensively, they also can provide lockdown defense.

It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 14 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 nine times and the Top 25 on 12 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in conference games in 11 of the last 16 years. In the Tom Izzoera, MSU has out-rebounded 489 of 634 opponents (.771), posting a 389-100 (.796) mark in those games. Last season, the Spartans out-rebounded 32 of 36 opponents. This season, MSU owns a +5.8 rebounding margin, ranking third in the Big Ten, and has out-rebounded 12 of 17 opponents.

Returning Productivity
MSU returns six of its top seven scorers from last season, in featuring one of the nation's most experienced rosters to start the season. The Spartans return 84.2 percent of their scoring, 79.3 percent of their rebounding and 84.0 percent of their assists. Five returning Spartans started 15 or more games last season, including four with 24 or more starts. Six returners played 500 or more minutes last season. By comparison, entering last year, just five Spartans had played more than 350 minutes in their career.

Robertson Trophy Watch List
Senior forward Adreian Payne and sophomore guard Gary Harrisare two of 15 players named to the 2013-14 Oscar Robertson Trophy Preseason Watch List. The preseason watch list was selected by the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Michigan State is the only school with two players on the list of 15. The award will be presented to the national player of the year by its namesake at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14, 2014 in Oklahoma City. The Big Ten leads all conference with four candidates as Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Michigan's Mitch McGary are also on the list.

MSU In The Rankings
The Spartans are currently ranked tied for No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press Top 25. Five Spartan opponents are also ranked in at least one of the polls, including Wisconsin (3 AP/3 USA Today), Ohio State (11/9), Kentucky (13/12), Iowa (14/16) and Oklahoma (t-25/-).

Wooden And Naismith Award Watch Lists
Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Paynehave each earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. The Spartans are one of four schools to have at least three players on the list. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 10 players on the list of 50. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the midseason list and the official voting ballot, which will consist of approximately 20 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA. The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation's top 10 players, will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. Harris and Payne have also been named to the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List.

Cousy Award Watch List
Senior Keith Applingis one of 47 players on the watch list of candidates for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. The annual honor, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guards in men's college basketball. This watch list of candidates will be narrowed down to a final 20 in early February, then final five by early March. The Cousy Award winner will be presented the award on Championship Monday in Dallas at the Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 Announcement and Press Conference.

1,000 Point Scorers
Last season, Keith Appling became the 43rd player in Michigan State history to record 1,000 career points, and just the 29th player to reach the milestone in three seasons. With 1,392 career points, he ranks 20th in MSU career scoring, 76 points behind Charlie Bell (1,468 points). With 966 points, Adreian Payneis likely to become the next Spartan to reach 1,000 career points.

MSU's Center Rotation
Most of Michigan State's starting lineup is pretty-much etched in stone as Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne all return from the 2012-13 starting lineup. But the fifth spot is a little bit more unsettled. Sophomore Matt Costello has been the starter in eight games, but redshirt junior Alex Gauna and Gavin Schillingare also in contention for the spot should MSU elect to go with a big lineup. The trio is averaging a combined 7.0 points and 6.9 rebounds.

MSU At No. 1
Earlier this season, Michigan State held the No. 1 spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls for three straight weeks for the first time in school history. Although the Spartans have been ranked in the Top 10 in 15 of Tom Izzo's19 seasons, and the Top 5 in 11 seasons, this was just the second season under Coach Izzo, and just the third time in school history that MSU has held the top spot in the AP Top 25, having previously been ranked No. 1 for two weeks in both 1978-79 and 2000-01. The Spartans have an all-time record of 9-4 at No. 1.

Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball, an honor bestowed on it by ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman on Nov. 5. Four conference teams are currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, including No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 9 Ohio State, and No. 16 Iowa. Last season, seven of the 12 league teams participated in the NCAA Tournament, with a total of nine in postseason play.

Conference Favorites
Michigan State was announced as a unanimous preseason favorite for the conference championship at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Oct. 31. Michigan was picked to finish second and Ohio State was third. Spartan sophomore Gary Harris was tabbed the preseason player of the year, and senior Adreian Paynejoined Harris on the preseason All-Big Ten squad.

Spartan Freshmen
Michigan State could feature as many as three freshmen in its playing group, including red-shirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, and true freshmen Alvin Ellis III and Gavin Schilling. Kaminski redshirted last season following a shoulder injury he suffered last fall. He provides a big man with excellent shooting ability for the Spartans. Ellis III and Schilling were actually prep teammates as juniors at Chicago De La Salle High School before Schilling transferred to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his senior season. Ellis III provides a solid all-around presence on the perimeter, while Schilling provides great strength and quickness in the post. Both Ellis III and Schilling were added during the spring signing period in 2013.

THE BOOK ON Tom Izzo
Coach Izzo

In his 19th year, Tom Izzo(Northern Michigan, '77) is 455-179 (.718), and 214-95 (.693) in the Big Ten, as the coach of the Michigan State basketball program. He ranks as the winningest coach in Michigan State history, having passed his mentor Jud Heathcote with his 341st career victory on Nov. 28, 2009. In his 18 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has captured eight National Coach of the Year awards, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001 and 2012. In 1999, Izzo was named National Coach of the year by Basketball Times, while earning similar honors from The Associated Press, Basketball News and the USBWA in '98. He also earned National Coach of the Year accolades from CBSSports.com in 2012. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012.

Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's.693 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (.710), and former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.729), Izzo (.718), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), and Lambert (.709). With 214 conference victories, Izzo ranks tied for fourth all-time.

Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 18 seasons, Tom Izzowon 439 games, ranking fourth in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 18 years.

Izzo's Coaching Tree
Five current Division I head coaches all served as assistants to Tom Izzo, including Tom Crean (Indiana), Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech), Stan Heath (South Florida), Mark Montgomery (Northern Illinois) and Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston). Mike Garland served as head coach at Cleveland State for three seasons and Stan Joplin, an assistant during Izzo's first season, spent 12 seasons as head coach at Toledo. Jim Boylen was head coach at Utah for four years.


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