Michigan State Preview

by Chris Mackinder | November 28th, 2007

2006-2007 Record: 23-12 (8-8 Big 10, T-7th)
Postseason Games:

3/8/2007 Northwestern Big Ten Tournament W 62-57
3/9/2007 Wisconsin Big Ten Tournament L 70-57
3/15/2007 Marquette NCAA W 61-49
3/17/2007 North Carolina NCAA L 81-67

Returning Statistical Leaders:
13.5 ppg – Drew Neitzel
6.7 rpg – Goran Suton
6.5 apg – Drew Neitzel

Starting Lineup: Key Stat:
C Goran Suton 6’10 Jr. 2.6 TOs per game makes him liability
PF Marquis Gray 6’8 Jr. FG% (57.8) good, FT% (59.0) not so good
SF Raymar Morgan 6’7 So. Two double-doubles to start ’07-’08 season
SG Drew Neitzel 6’0 Sr. 87.9% FT shooter, best in Big Ten
PG Kalin Lucas 6’0 Fr. Izzo calls him quickest MSU recruit ever

Key Player Losses: None. The Spartans return their top seven scorers from last season and unless you consider Maurice Joseph a key cog in last year’s NCAA Tourney team, MSU doesn’t lose much at all.

Impact Newcomer: Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas. It is impossible to separate the two because both will be invaluable to the Spartans. Lucas will be the team’s starting point guard along side Neitzel and can push the ball up the floor a la Raymond Felton with the ’05 Tar Heels. Allen is a tremendous athlete who will bring back memories of Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown in East Lansing. His ability to score will take the pressure of Neitzel and Morgan.

Tough Question: Will MSU get another consistent scorer not named Drew Neitzel? Through two games this year, the answer is a resounding yes. Raymar Morgan leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 19 ppg and 14.5 rpg. With back-to-back double-doubles, it seems clear that Morgan will be a super sophomore.

Too Much PT: Drew Naymick. Honestly this choice is a stretch, but that is how the entire Spartan team is this season. Naymick brings the “I’m a big white guy with experience” resume every time he steps on the floor. In MSU’s glory years, the Spartans had Adam Ballinger, A.J. Granger, and Paul Davis all playing the big white guy role. Davis, now in the NBA, is really the only one who was counted on to do anything. Naymick’s experience is his most valuable asset, but giving him 10 minutes a game keeps more talented reserves off the floor.

Get Him on the Floor: Travis Walton. In a run-and-gun contest, Walton should stay on the bench. But in a knock-you-down defensive struggle, the Big Ten’s best one-on-one defender is a must on the floor. And it looks like he’s worked on his shot this off-season to increase his offensive value.

Point Guard Impact: Neitzel’s First Team All-America and Big Ten Pre-season Player of the Year selections speak for themselves.

Final Word: This is Michigan State’s best team since 2001. With its full arsenal returning from last year’s team that had North Carolina on the brink of elimination before the final five minutes of a second-round NCAA Tournament game, MSU has no excuse not to make a deep run in the Big Dance. An Elite Eight appearance should be the floor, while a National Championship obviously is the ceiling. Splitting the difference is likely where the Spartans will end up, giving Tom Izzo his fifth Final Four appearance in the past 10 years. That said, it would not be surprising if the Spartans have to achieve that from a No. 2 or No. 3 seed line.


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