Dec 31, 2011

Vols' DeAnthony Arnett seeks transfer to Michigan State or Michigan

By Sean Gagnier

The Michigan native WR DeAnthony Arnett is seeking to secure his transfer off of Rocky Top and back home to Saginaw, Mich. in order to be closer to his family and his ailing father.

In a letter to the media, Arnett disclosed that his father has recently suffered two heart attacks and has been placed on dialysis and that his focus has reasonably not been on football or even in Tennessee but at home.

"I want to play football but I NEED to be here for my Dad and with my family," Arnett wrote in the email.

In the email, Arnett also disclosed that he is seeking a transfer to all schools in the state of Michigan. Although the University of Tennessee has said that they will only release Arnett to a Mid-American Conference school and not to Michigan or Michigan State. If Arnett decides he would like to attend either school he would have to finance his own education and athletic career.

In Arnett's email he states that his family has been enduring financial struggles and that he is unsure of his ability to finance a move to a Big Ten team. He went on to accuse Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley of hindering him by not allowing him to compete at the BCS level.

Tennessee has stated that they are not blocking Arnett from competing at the FBS level but following a policy of not transferring players to schools that they would play or recruit against. Although the Vols' won't be playing Michigan State or Michigan any time soon, but they do cross paths on the recruiting trail quite often.

The addition of Arnett to the Spartans receiving corps would be a huge gain as they are thin after Keith Nichol, B.J. Cunningham and Brian Linthicum graduated. Arnett would have to sit out a year after a transfer but would be able to jump in and help Bennie Fowler, Keith Mumphery, Juwan Caesar and four-star recruit Aaron Burbridge.

Tennessee can still change its mind and allow a transfer to Michigan or Michigan State rather than a MAC school. The situation is a difficult one but both sides have to understand the other and realize that not everyone can come out on the winning end.

Dec 20, 2011

Pat Narduzzi staying put - for now

By Sean Gagnier

The University of Akron will have to look elsewhere for its new head coach - Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi recently told the Zips, thanks but no thanks. However, his refusal to head to Ohio doesn't mean Narduzzi isn't still on other short lists across the country.

With departure of Ron Zook from the University of Illinois the Illini look to be very interested in the services of Narduzzi. It also appears as though Pittsburgh is interested in acquiring his services - keep an eye open for them.

Despite the head coach title swirling around him Narduzzi has maintained that his focus is on preparing the Michigan State defense for the Georgia Bulldogs in the upcoming Outback Bowl.

There has been very little said from Michigan State about the future of Narduzzi with the Spartans, with Athletic Director Mark Hollis and Head Coach Mark Dantonio both refusing to make any detailed comments on the subject. Hollis has said that he has set aside an undisclosed amount of money to increase the pay to Dantonio's assistants - something he has been advocating for for years.

This is Narduzzi's fifth year with the Spartans, having come over when Dantonio was named head coach, and the best statistical season for his Spartan defense to date. Despite being attractive to recruits and players as well as presiding over one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, Narduzzi makes only $233,000 a season. A figure that is more than three times lower than many other coordinators of his stature. That being said that is when most coordinators attempt to make the jump to the head coaching position - they aren't sure if they'll ever be in the spotlight again.

With many schools seeking to steal Narduzzi away from Michigan State, Hollis and Dantonio will have to come together after the Outback Bowl and decide on a plan regarding their defensive coordinator - do they do nothing and run the risk of him leaving for a head coaching position or do they offer him an extension on his contract and try to lock him up for the near future.

Regardless of their choice and where Narduzzi eventually lands one thing can be said, it is a good sign when schools come and try to poach coaches from other programs - it means that you're doing something right and they want to try to harness some of your success. While the possible departure of Narduzzi could pose a problem for this Michigan State team the implication of having your offensive coordinator spirited away last year and teams interested in your defensive coordinator means that you have quite the team.

Michigan State's trouncing of UMKC was an effective pre-Big Ten tune-up

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports
By Adam Biggers

Sure, the 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans have one more non-conference battle before hosting the Indiana Hoosiers on Dec. 28 at the Breslin Center—they host Lehigh on Dec. 22—but Monday night's 89-54 romping of the University of Missouri-Kansas City was a great step toward heading into the Holiday break with a healthy confidence.

The game was over before it started, really. Michigan State had beaten 61 prior un-ranked, non-conference teams at the Breslin Center, stemming back to Dec. 30, 2002, and there was little doubt that they'd make it 62 with a win over UMKC.

Michigan State (10-2) jumped out to a 16-2 lead over the 'Roos (7-6, 1-1) by way of Derrick Nix's lefty-hook and never looked back. It was clear that the Spartans would roll onto a sizable victory after that play, although, there were plenty more on the way.

Freshman Branden Dawson scored a career-high 16 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field and throwing down a couple raucous dunks in the process. Spartans coach Tom Izzo recently said that it would only be a matter of time before Dawson became a star at Michigan State.

While Dawson's ravaging of a Summit League opponent doesn't qualify him for stardom just yet, he's had showings against better foes that have suggested he'll be there soon.

Dawson continues to look more and more like the five-star phenom Spartans followers couldn't wait to see play. With a little brushing up on his perimeter defense—he was burned twice, by my count, Monday—he'll be the real deal.

Seniors Draymond Green and Brandon Wood also turned in spirited performances, with Green tallying 10 points and 11 rebounds and Wood finishing with 16 points (3-for-3 from 3-point range).

Green… well, what more could be said about Green? Even against what fans—not the Spartans—would call a "cupcake" team, he battled in the paint, crashed the boards and hit the deck for loose balls. The Spartans are his to command, and he showed why he's well-respected—he never lets up.

Nix, a junior, looked good in the paint, however, he appeared to roll his left foot when going up for a rebound in the second half. He returned to the bench under his own power, and by the looks of things, he'll live. Along with Nix, Adreian Payne helped limit the 'Roos to nearly zero production in the paint.

In fact, the 'Roos, who came in as one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams (42 percent), looked hesitant to come inside the perimeter. That hesitation was warranted, as the Spartans blocked six shots in the first 20 minutes, forcing the 'Roos to stick to what they knew, and that was shooting the long ball.

But, that didn't work out too well for UMKC, which shot 22 percent from beyond the arc in the first half and a sub-par 31 percent from the floor. The poor shooting performances, along with a stingy and powerful Spartans defense, led UMKC to a 40-20 deficit at the break.

A few good looks…

There were plenty of unselfish plays to go around Monday night. The Spartans had 14 assists at the half, and Izzo praised the Spartans' willingness to spread the ball around during his post-game interview with the Big Ten Network's Greg Kelser (Special K).

Nix's hustle in the first half was something to take note of. He's been giving more effort, it seems, each and every game. After sinking his lefty-hook in the first half, he ran down the floor, blocking Fred Chatmon's shot at an open lay-up.

Dawson's dunks were the icing on the cake. His best came in the first half. He took advantage of the mismatch, leaped from right edge of the charge circle and threw down a nice one-handed flush. It was a highlight dunk you'll see on all the recap shows, trust me.

The play gave Michigan State a 23-11 edge and let the flood gates open. Well, there were a couple plays that could be given credit for that, but that's one I chose to cite. Dawson's one-handed, breakaway dunk in the second half gave the Spartans a 51-23 cushion. That was a morale-crushing play, too.

Wood helped ensure the Spartans would post a beyond-lopsided victory with a dagger 3-pointer with about six minutes to play, giving Michigan State a 76-46 lead.

Walk it out, walk-ons…

Keenan Wetzel, seemingly eighth-year senior Anthony Ianni and even Dan Chapman got a little action. It was nice to see Ianni sink a free-throw, as he's been a guy who I've really admired for giving a lot with little in return—kind of like a bigger, meatier Tom Herzog. Those guys make the program go 'round, believe it or not.

Adam Biggers has followed NCAA basketball for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans. He can be reached by e-mail at Adam.Biggers, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

2012 Outback Bowl: Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Georgia's Aaron Murray present unique quarterback match-up

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports
By Adam Biggers

Michigan State has traditionally has had success on the ground. However, the 2011 season required more from senior quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw for a career-high 3,016 yards, 24 touchdowns—while setting program-bests in career wins and passer rating—and led the Spartans to a Big Ten Legends Division title.

While running backs LeVeon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper had solid showings, they weren't as effective as they were in 2010. That was fine, because Cousins picked up the slack, utilizing receivers like BJ Cunningham, Keith Nichol and Keshawn Martin in big play after big play.

Cousins was arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten this year, and has the capability of airing it out Jan. 2 against the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (10-3) during the 2012 Outback Bowl in Tampa.

But, the 17th-ranked Spartans (10-3) will be put to the test in their post-New Year's Day bowl, as the Bulldogs have quite the quarterback of their own in sophomore Aaron Murray.

Like Cousins, Murray had a banner year, setting school records with 33 touchdowns and 2,861 yards. He took charge of an offense that was similar, at various levels, to the Spartans'. Both teams had weapons in the backfield, but threw the ball en route to making their conference title games.

It's almost funny how alike the Bulldogs and Spartans are. And that was the thought heading into the Big Ten title game, as the Spartans and Badgers were near-mirror images of one another as well.

Stingy defenses, the Spartans and Bulldogs each gave up less than 20 points per game. Both had steady contributions from their lines, linebackers and secondaries, too.

That being said, which quarterback will have the upper hand Jan. 2? That remains to be seen, but Cousins' numbers certainly suggest that he'll have the edge.

Against ranked teams

Cousins torched the Badgers twice this season, throwing for six touchdowns and nearly 600 yards en route to posting a 1-1 record against one of the best teams in the land. He didn't need to throw much during the Spartans' 28-14 win over Michigan, but connected with receivers for two touchdowns, nonetheless.

Cousins was 2-1 against ranked teams during the regular season, but failed to impress in a 24-3 road loss to Nebraska.

Murray was 2-2 against ranked teams in 2011 and threw for at least 230 yards and two touchdowns in each game. He wasn't horrible in losses to Boise State and South Carolina, either—both of which were formidable adversaries.

He threw for four touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 45-42 loss to South Carolina and threw for two scores in a 35-21 loss to Boise State. He tossed four more in a 45-7 romping of Auburn later in the year.

For a sophomore, he showed great poise in leading the Bulldogs to a 10-2 regular-season mark. However, in the biggest game of the year, a 42-10 loss to Louisiana State in the SEC championship, he completed just 40 percent of his passes and threw two picks. But not many quarterbacks successfully dissected LSU.

Accuracy and tendencies

Cousins completed 65.5 percent of hiss passes and threw just seven interceptions. However, he had the propensity to force throws and could have easily thrown more than seven.

Murray did this season what Cousins has done in the past—he forced a lot of throws. His completion rate of 58 percent is respectable, but his 12 interceptions suggest he doesn't always make the best decisions with the ball.

Near the end of the year, Cousins had a three-game stretch without an interception, finishing with seven pick-less games on the year.

Murray threw three interceptions in a win over Mississippi State, and had three games in which he didn't throw to the other team.

Of course, those comparisons mean virtually nothing this time of year. The level play in the SEC is perceived as far superior to the level of Big Ten, and one could argue each quarterback's true effectiveness against their conference's top competition.

It's a new season, and the hottest quarterback will likely lead his team to a win Jan. 2—but the stats are interesting to discuss and debate.

Adam Biggers has followed NCAA football for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans. As the Outback Bowl approaches, he will profile other player match-ups, compare defenses, offenses, and special teams in later articles.

Adam can be reached by e-mail at, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

2012 Outback Bowl: Michigan State's LeVeon Bell, Georgia's Isaiah Crowell headline rushing duel

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports 
By Adam Biggers

While I'm more apt to think that the 2012 Outback Bowl between the 17th-ranked Michigan State Spartans and 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs will be won in the air, the similarities between each team's ground game intrigues me.

LeVeon Bell proved to be a bruising back who could carry the load for the Spartans in the regular season, dodging tackles and racking up 900 yards on the ground in the process. He possesses a great combination of power and speed, and at 6-foot-2, 237 pounds, Bell will surely be a hard take-down for the Bulldogs defense.

Throw in Larry Caper, who is typically a sure-handed running back with a knack for making grabs in the flat; Edwin Baker, another powerful back with speed to burn, and the Spartans will present a monumental task Jan. 2 for Georgia to handle.

However, the Bulldogs defense, one of the best in the country, ranked 19th against defending the run this season, allowing a stingy 1,344 yards on the year.

And to top it off, the Bulldogs have an athletic, play-making back of its own: Freshman Isaiah Crowell, a load at 5-11 and 217 pounds, who galloped for 847 yards and 12 touchdowns this season—and he did that against a slate of Southeastern Conference opponents. While the Spartans did a sufficient job against Big Ten defenses, Georgia had to do it against SEC foes.

Defend the Big Ten if you must, but its defenses aren't the SEC's defenses. Statistically, Michigan State and Georgia's defenses are similar and match-up well, but that's on paper, and for a later article to address and discuss.

But, don't give Georgia the advantage just yet, as the Spartans were efficient in stuffing running backs this year, too—allowing 1,356 yards on the ground and coming in one spot nationally behind Georgia in terms of run defense.

Here are some numbers to digest: Rushing offense, rushing defense.

Quick hits

Bell rushed for 100 or more yards twice this season: 112 in the Spartans' 37-21 road win over Iowa and 106 in their 42-39 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. What does that mean? Well, if Bell's stats don't wow you, they should suggest he comes to play when his team needs him most.

Bell carried the ball a season-high 20 times in the Spartans' win at Iowa, pitching in a touchdown and two catches for 49 yards (long of 45). The win over the Hawkeyes helped Michigan State prove it could win a crucial game away from Spartan Stadium.

Crowell topped Bell in the 100-yard plus category, going for the century mark four times this season. He was out two games (Georgia Tech and New Mexico State) against opponents he would have likely ravaged for 100 or more.

One of Crowell's best performances was a 30-carry, 147-yard display in a 27-13 win over Ole Miss (Mississippi).

Stats don't tell the whole story

If not for balanced backfields, both Bell and Crowell would have likely rushed for over 1,000 yards this year. Both backs were reliable, showing they could handle the ball and produce.

The pure rushing numbers shade toward Bell having the advantage, but I would have to disagree based on one fact: Crowell got his against the SEC. But, consider Bell's other skills: He has great hands and catch. Crowell didn't rack up the receiving yards like Bell did this season (30 receptions for 228 yards).

There will be other backs that factor in the game, of course, but I wanted to highlight the two headliners. Two even defenses, not to mention two similar offenses, should make for a BCS-like match-up Jan. 2. The Outback Bowl is easily the best non-BCS game out there—a must-watch, not only for Spartans and Bulldogs followers, but for college football purists.

If one back has the potential to be a game-changer, it's Bell. He's shown in three years at Michigan State that he has the ability to do as much. Experience in big games comes in handy, and while Crowell is a fantastic athlete in his own right, I give the edge to Bell as the Outback Bowl's "game buster."

Adam Biggers has followed college football for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans. He can be reached by e-mail at, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

He will continue to highlight other aspects of the 2012 Outback Bowl in later articles, so check back often.

Dec 13, 2011

Top Spartan recruit jumps ship

By Sean Gagnier
Four star defensive end Se'Von Pittman, Canton, OH, has decommitted from Michigan State after a Dec. 9 meeting with Ohio State's Offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman and has committed to Ohio State.

New Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has made what inevitably will be the first of many moves that will make him a thorn in the side of coach Mark Dantonio and Spartan fans for years to come.

The move shouldn't come as too big of a surprise to Spartan fans as Pittman had been publicly wavering on his commitment as soon as the talk of Meyer to Columbus began. Growing up in Ohio the lure to become a Buckeye must just have been to strong when Meyer was tapped to become the head coach.

The weakside defensive end would have added depth to the strong Spartan defensive line; he would likely have been redshirted during the 2012 season before manning the line in 2013. Pittman is ranked 81st overall and 8th at DE according to

With the departure of Pittman the Spartans 2012 draft class loses one of its three four-star recruits - the other two being WR Aaron Burbridge out of Farmington Hills Harrison, Farmington Hills, MI and DE Jamal Lyles out of Lathrup, Southfield, MI. Michigan State retains commitments from 14 recruits with an average recruit ranking of just over a three-star. While the class may not look as impressive of that of Michigan's there is still plenty of time to fill out the class - and Dantonio has a knack for turning two and three-star recruits into stars on the field.

Dec 12, 2011

Spartans earn weekend split with Wolverines

By Sean Gagnier
Michigan State headed into the weekend looking to do battle with their in-state rivals and sweep the two game series. While a sweep wasn't attained the Spartans were able to gain a split against the Wolverines -  including a shootout victory at home.

In front of a sold-out crowd at Munn Ice Arena on Saturday the Spartans took home a shootout victory on the back of senior goalie Drew Palmisano.

Prior to his appointment as MSU head coach this season Tom Anastos served as the commissioner of the CCHA, instituting a controversial shootout rule in 2008. This rule would avoid tie games in games between CCHA opponents, something Anastos thought would entertain the crowds. 

On Saturday Michigan State benefited from the prior decision of their head coach, with the Spartans riding a hot Palmisano to a 4-3 overtime victory. The victory served as payback for a loss Friday night to the Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena.

"I was real proud of how hard our guys competed," said Anastos. "And you know, I was real happy for (Palmisano), in particular, shutting them down in the shootout.”

As was the case on Friday night, in Michigan's win over Michigan State, the scoreboard showed a closely contested game in which neither team seemed to gain the sustained upper hand on the other. The Wolverines held a 3-2 lead over the Spartans with a little under four minutes remaining in the game when MSU's Lee Reimer lit the lamp to tie the game at three apiece.

The two teams dueled in out during a five minute overtime session, without either being able to find the back of the net, leading to the deciding shootout. In the shootout Anastos chose to go with a lineup of Brett Perlini, Matt Berry and Greg Wolfe.

Perlini drove towards the net and Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick -  he missed on his attempt, but Palmisano was able to turn aside the Michigan attempt at the other end. Berry was able to deke around Hunwick to put the Spartans on the board while Palmisano kept Michigan off the board. In the final round of the shootout MSU's Greg Wolfe's shot was turned aside by Hunwick but Palmisano stoned Michigan's AJ Treais.

As Palmisano turned aside the final shot Munn Ice Arena exploded with the excited cheers of fans and the senior goaltender kicked the air before jumping against the glass in front of the MSU student section.

“The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry is the biggest in college hockey,” Palmisano said. “It always feels good to beat these guys at home.”

Michigan State will have a 16-day break over the holidays before heading back to East Lansing to get ready for the Great Lakes Invitational (Dec. 29-30 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit). Closing out the first half of the season the Spartans hold a 10-6-2 record while going 6-5-1-1 in CCHA games.  

The first half of the season could be considered to be a success for the Spartans as they were expected to finish in the basement of the CCHA and so far have defeated Minnesota, Western Michigan and Northern Michigan - teams all ranked in the top ten.

Dec 11, 2011

Michigan State Spartans centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne answering questions of effectiveness

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports

By Adam Biggers

If the Michigan State Spartans were to be a truly competitive team this season, their centers, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, had to respond to criticism and up their levels of play.

And after a 74-67 tournament-like road win Saturday at 22nd-ranked Gonaga (5-3), both showed improvement, providing confidence to Spartans followers that their team would indeed have a forceful inside game in 2011-12.

Nix and Payne each did an adequate job of containing star Bulldogs center Robert Sacre, who scored just eight points from the field, with the other eight coming from the free-throw line.

Prior to the game, Nix said Sacre would be a challenge. Matter of fact, out of all the players Nix has faced in his collegiate career, he said Sacre was the toughest to handle.

"I ain't ever played anybody stronger than he is," Nix told reporters. "I saw him in a few games this year. He looks even stronger and he has good post moves."

Nix muscled Sacre on Saturday, looking more like the mammoth force he was at Detroit Pershing just three years ago, and less like an underachieving talent struggling to survive the rigors of the Big Ten.

Payne, who scored nine points to Nix's eight, was effective in a different manner than his teammate was. A long, athletic 6-foot-10 gazelle-like center, Payne used his long arms to his advantage, blocking two of Sacre's shots. Payne forced two turnovers in the paint, and along with Nix, helped the Spartans (8-2) compete in a battle on the boards—a battle in which the Spartans lost for the first time all season (35-25).

Nix had a team-high six boards, while Payne brought in three. Nix had one of his better games of the young season, considering the fact that it was against a robust opponent on the road. He needed to show up in a meaningful road game to gain confidence.

To combat the size of Sacre, a 7-footer, both Spartans centers had to show up to play. Nix was physical, and Payne used his athleticism. The combination worked well for Tom Izzo's Spartans.

Payne has scored in double figures four times this season, nearly doing it for a fifth time Saturday with nine points. Last year, as a freshman, Payne scored in double figures just twice—10 points in a 96-66 season-opening win over Eastern Michigan, and 10 in a 71-61 loss to Ohio State.

Nix had five more rebounds four times last season. He's matched that feat this year, with a season-high nine coming in the Spartans' 67-55 season-opening loss to the then top-ranked North Carolina Tarheels.

Saturday's game was a just glimpse of what Nix and Payne, when working together as one, could do this season for the Spartans. Their statistics certainly indicate that they're on the rise, improving greatly from a year ago.

If they can establish the same type of continuity that the guard unit is developing, the Spartans will be a well-rounded team capable of playing a complete game on all fronts.

Adam Biggers can be reached by e-mail at, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Draymond Green takes driver's seat in Michigan State's road test with Gonzaga Bulldogs

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports

By Adam Biggers

Draymond Green made a statement Saturday in Spokane, Wash.

The Michigan State Spartans' senior leader scored a career-high 34 points in his team's 74-67 win over the 22nd-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs (5-3), further proving that he is the sole proprietor—at least on the court—of the Spartans.

It was a game in which the Spartans were tested, and they needed to be. And because the Spartans passed that test, they'll likely appear in the top-25 rankings.

Without a true challenge away from the Breslin Center this year, a battle with another perennial NCAA tournament team served as an accurate barometer of the Spartans' (8-2) progress after they opened their season with losses to then sixth-ranked Duke and top-ranked North Carolina.

The Spartans—despite late fouls, mental mistakes and missed opportunities—looked sharp, for the most part. Freshman Travis Trice had trouble handling the ball, committing four turnovers, but he did have three key assists—and one in particular helped push the Spartans to victory: a beautiful pass to Green in the paint which gave the Spartans a 62-52 lead with just over nine minutes to play.

At one point in the second half, Green had made 10 straight, finishing 11-of-13 from the field, 4-for-5 from 3-point range and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line. He absolutely dominated the Bulldogs, inside and out, en route to posting one of the most well-rounded showings of any Spartan in recent memory.

He just couldn't miss. Green's sharpshooting gave the Spartans 9- and 10-point cushions in the second half (51-41, 65-56), which were handy in fending off a late, but spirited, 11-3 Bulldogs run.
Sure, another player could have stepped up and vaulted the Spartans past the Bulldogs in arguably one of their toughest road games of the season. It's hard to win on the road in the Big Ten, and Gonzaga does pretty well at The Kennel.

It was fitting that Green was the man of the hour. After the Spartans' 89-69 home win over Central Connecticut State, coach Tom Izzo, and Green, expressed their displeasure in the team's sloppy play. Green held a gathering, not a "meeting," as he insisted, and laid it all on the line. He told Trice, a freshman, that this year's team reminded him of past Final Four teams at Michigan State, two of which Green was on.

And then he burst for a career-night Saturday against Gonzaga.

It would have been easy for the senior to direct guys, telling them what he expected. But it's quite another for him to set the tone. That's just what leaders do.

That's just what Day-Day has done his whole career in East Lansing.

Adam Biggers can be reached by e-mail at, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Dec 10, 2011

Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans will get tournament-like test on the road Saturday from Gonzaga Bulldogs

This article was originally published on Yahoo! Sports

By Adam Biggers

Coach Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans (7-2) already have a solid home win under their belt, a 65-49 bouncing Nov. 30 of the Florida State Seminoles during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

And while Michigan State showed glimpses of its strength in losses to North Carolina and Duke early on, both of those games were played at neutral sites—not true "road" games, by definition.

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the waters outside of San Diego on Veteran's Day, then top-ranked North Carolina disposed of the Spartans, 67-55. Four days later, Nov. 15, the Spartans fell 74-69 to Duke during the State Farm Champions Classic at the Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The Spartans, fresh off an 89-69 win over Central Connecticut State at the Breslin Center, haven't had their will truly tested on the road, unless, of course, a 72-40 blowout triumph over Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti counts.

Which it doesn't.

Saturday, against the Gonzaga Bulldogs (5-2), the Spartans will finally get their opportunity to prove that they have made strides in the right direction, and possibly crack the top-25 rankings, with a win at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.

The lack of road games presents a challenge when attempting to gauge the Spartans' effectiveness away from East Lansing. Last season, the Spartans didn't earn their stripes on the road until Jan. 3 after beating Big Ten foe Northwestern 65-62 in Evanston. Minus a tournament win at Chaminade, the Spartans were hardly competitive away from the Breslin Center, posting an embarrassing 2-8 record.

The lack of team chemistry could to be blame, maybe even the lack of preparation. But that shouldn't be the case Saturday, because by all accounts, the Spartans are a much more tight-knit unit this winter and have just as much, if not more, potential to be successful as the 2010-11 team had.

Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament each season since 2000 under 12th-year coach Mark Few. The Bulldogs qualified each year since 1999, but Few was then an assistant. He's coached Gonzaga to WCC titles each year, except 2003, during the same span. If the Bulldog's impressive track record is of any indication, the Spartans, who lost in the first round last season to UCLA, will have their fourth duel with a potential tournament squad this season (UNC, Duke, Florida State).

A win over Gonzaga at Spokane would likely bolster the Spartans' confidence after the lackluster season they had a year ago. Saturday's game is more than a road game, it's almost like an early tournament game, due to the level of competition it will face.

Izzo will be reunited with his mentor, the legendary former Spartans coach Jud Heathcote, who lives in Washington. As one of the figureheads of Spartans basketball, Heathcote's opinion carries a significant amount of weight, especially to Michigan State followers.

He coached the Spartans to their first national title in 1979 and has kept close tabs on Izzo and the Spartans since his retirement in 1995, the year Izzo took the reins.

The Spartans certainly have the talent, with young guards Travis Trice and Keith Appling proving more than capable of running Izzo's offense. Senior Draymond Green has his team under control, while Trice's fellow freshman Branden Dawson has shown glimpses of steady play.

"I think Tom's going to have a real good team come March," Heathcote said during an interview with a Michigan-based radio show. "The guards are starting to get better every game. Draymond Green is maybe the best player in the Big Ten. But what bothers me is the inconsistency of the two centers, both (Adreian) Payne and (Derrick) Nix. They have their moments, but they're not enough.

"(Payne's) got to do more, and he can do more. He's such a good athlete. But there's an awful lot of good athletes in the game of basketball that aren't good basketball players."

Adam can be reached by e-mail at, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Dec 9, 2011

Michigan State Spartans senior Draymond Green has everything under control

By Adam Biggers

The questionable senior leadership from a year ago won't be present this season if Michigan State Spartans senior Draymond Green has anything to say about it.

A leader? You bet. Is this his team this season? Without a question.

While Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers failed to live up to their senior potential last season, Green has been a general since his arrived in East Lansing.

Despite the Spartans' 89-69 win over the Blue Devils at the Breslin Center, coach Tom Izzo and Green each had choice words for the team. Spartans followers come to expect as much from Izzo, who hardly censors himself. It is what it is with Izzo.

And that's why he's so well-respected.

Green, however, has been more of a softer-spoken leader, at times, but showed his gruff side when he interviewed with Spartan Mag after the game.

"It wasn't necessarily a meeting," Green said. "I just had a few things that we needed to talk about, a few things that we needed to nip in the bud right now.

"Lack of effort is something that we will not do, will not happen to this team. If you just let that happen, guys get used to that and that's what they become. We will not let this team become like that. Guys will play with a tremendous energy level all year and that's how it's going to stay.

"We had one let-down. If you allow that and say, 'Okay we had one.' Then it turns to two, then it turns to three and then it becomes a problem. So you want to nip it in the bud as soon as it happens.

"The way we rebounded, the way we defended, all of those things. Things that we have done great this year, we didn't do. They got every loose ball. That's what we've been doing. You can't change the things that have been making you successful."

Now, that may have been a bit to digest, but read into it. Green was specific and targeted certain areas, not just the "coach talk" that Lucas and Summers offered about "improving" and "being team players," or whatever else sounded good to satisfy media questions.

No, Green gets to the point. But he's not brash or holier-than-thou. He's a coach, an extension of Izzo. I've written in the past that Green will go down as one of the greatest Spartans leaders—if not ever—in the Izzo Era.

Now, I'm not trying to come across as "see, I know MSU basketball," because if you're reading this, you're probably right up there, too. It doesn't take a four-year degree to understand that Green is cut from a different mold.

Green knows when the Spartans have a quality team. He's been two Final Fours, a national title game, and has seen players come and go. What really quenched my desire to know if the Spartans were indeed the real deal were Green's comments directed toward freshman guard Travis Trice, who erupted for a game- and team-high 20 points in the win over the Blue Devils.

"He (Draymond) told us how this team reminds him of the Final Four teams and the championship teams that have been here, about how we're all together but we just have to eliminate the distractions," Trice told Spartan Mag. "Any kind of distractions, whether it's somebody telling you you should play more, or somebody telling you this should be your team.

"It might not be all that. Something might be happening at home and you need somebody you to talk to. Whatever it is. We just need to stay close together."

This year's team reminds Green of past Final Four teams?! The Big Ten will likely be dominated by Ohio State, with Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, as well as Michigan State, making pushes for conference titles. The Spartans, who fell in the first round of the tournament last season with Lucas, Summers and Delvon Roe, three great players (two of which didn't deliver in their final year) that are no longer with the team, have the potential to make Green's senior year one to remember.

Korie Lucious' behavior was a distraction last year. A major distraction. The Spartans guards were seemingly learning to adjust without Chris Allen, who transferred amidst a cloud of controversy, and this year, well, this year—it was supposed to be back to the drawing board.

Right? Wrong—at least according to Green. And I'll take his word for it, because he's there day-in, day-out, practicing and going through the Izzo grind.

This team has talent. No doubt. There is enough, like teams from years ago, to make runs toward the Final Four. Continual runs. I like Green's confidence. There is no doubt if the Spartans put it all together at the right time that they will make some noise in the Big Ten and, in all likelihood, in that little dance the NCAA has in March.

But this is Green's last year. And the Spartans must get it together, if not for the team, Izzo, or the school—but for Green, who has played his tail off for four years.

He has the ability to manage the team while Izzo does, well, what Izzo does.

Follow Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81, or, e-mail him

Michigan State Spartans legend Shawn Respert reflects on recruitment, meeting Tom Izzo for first time

This article originally appeared on Yahoo! Sports 

By Adam Biggers

Shawn Respert nearly didn't have the chance to become one of the greatest Michigan State Spartans basketball players. He could have easily went to play for a handful of other programs, but then-coach Jud Heathcote wasn't about to let him get away.

However, current Spartans coach Tom Izzo (who was then an assistant) and former assistant Stan Joplin weren't immediately sold.

Initially, says Respert, now 39, Heathcote and his staff were interested in Parish Hickman, a teammate of his at Redford Bishop Borgess High. Hickman was recruited a year earlier as one of the top players in Michigan, but he urged Heathcote to take a look at Respert in 1989-90.

"Coach Heathcote was a little more keen about looking at me and bringing me as a possible addition to the team," Respert said.

Joplin and Izzo brought in Eric Snow, who paired with Respert in the Spartans' backcourt in the early 1990s. They were nearly unstoppable, and arguably the best tandem of guards to ever play at Michigan State. One could argue that such is true regarding the Big Ten.

However, Snow's status was being considered, too. The coaches met, finally making a decision that greatly impacted the history of Spartans basketball.

"They funny thing is, when they brought us in, they would lobby with each other, and then they just figured to take the both of us," Respert said, laughing.

Not to say that Izzo wasn't immediately struck by Respert's talent, but he probably couldn't have imagined that Respert, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, would go on to become the school's career scoring leader (2,531 points), national and Big Ten player of the year, as well as a first-round NBA draft pick in 1995.
Eventually, Izzo warmed up to Respert, and the two formed a great relationship.

"I knew that he was excited to have me up there," Respert said. "He spent a lot of time getting to know me; he didn't owe me anything. He didn't have to sit there; he could have stuck with the guy he recruited (Snow) and been loyal to his player.

"Tom was selfless and able to say 'Hey, whatever it takes for us to win.' He was just like 'Whomever needs to play; who can help us win - get him out there. "

Izzo made Respert's transition from high school all the more comfortable. Izzo told Respert that he'd get a fair shot, and Respert respected Izzo's honesty.

"That's a tough transition for student-athletes to make," Respert said. "He had that charisma."

Heathcote's "blueprint was already there," says Respert. When Izzo took over in 1995, he already had 12 years experience working under Heathcote. He expanded on what Heathcote established in East Lansing, winning a national title in 2000 (MSU's second; 1979) and making six trips to the Final Four.

In the middle-late 1990s and early 2000s, Izzo landed some of his best classes of talent, which included Mateen Cleaves, Jason Richardson, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell. Whether it was a five-star recruit, or a virtual unknown, Izzo always got the most out of his players.

"(Izzo) injected the ability to have these great athletes come in and play in a successful system that was built on quality shooting," Respert said. "We were always one of those teams that was going to be near the top in field goal percentage and rebounding."

Respert said Izzo "got athletes plugged in" positions they could properly showcase their abilities and "understood what need to be done to get that program to the next level.

"And he did it."

This is one of a series of upcoming pieces on Spartans legend Shawn Respert, who today, works with the Minnesota Timberwolves' player development department.

Adam Biggers can be reached by e-mail at, or, by Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Note: Respert and I interviewed for over an hour-and-a-half Wednesday, Dec. 7. We talked about much more than Spartans basketball, delving deep into his personal story. Respert has been at the highest of summits and, at times, the lowest of valleys. His determination and never-say-die attitude are truly remarkable and admirable.

The below video highlights Respert's spirited performance during a 73-71 win over the Michigan Wolverines in 1995. 

Spartans look to down Wolverines at Yost

By Sean Gagnier
After stumbling out of the gates this season the Spartans have caught their stride and haven't looked back, they have soared to No. 14 in the nation after going 8-1-1 over the past 10 games.

With the new regime of Tom Anastos in place Michigan State has adopted the montra, "100 percent, 100 percent of the time" and it has worked. After losing to Lake Superior State University earlier in the season, the Spartans have steadily climbed in the rankings and boast a 10-5-1 (6-4) record.

Although the Spartans sit in sixth place in the conference, they still have 18 conference games left to play and the upcoming home-and-home series with Michigan looms large.

The Wolverines have not maintained their power from last year, after winning the CCHA they currently sit in eighth place with a 8-8-2 (4-6) record, but any game between these two rivals tends to come down to the last period and tends to remain close.

Coach Anastos has preached that this game is more than just another on the schedule, saying there's something more to it than that.

"They say all games count the same," Anastos said. "True, but some games mean a little more."

The rivalry is strong with many of the players on the Spartans team, with captain Torey Krug saying that he lives for games like these against Michigan.

"You go to Michigan State to beat teams like Michigan,” Krug said. “You know, if you don’t have that hatred for Michigan, then I don’t think you’re a true Spartan. It’s just that confidence thing."

Over the past 11 years the two teams have played to an even 21-21-10 series record, while each game tends to be a tight battle. The two met in The Big Chill at the Big House and the Wolverines soundly beat the Spartans 5-0, but both teams broke even on the season with a 2-2 record.

The two teams are heading in different directions of late, with the Spartans having ripped off eight wins in their last ten games and the Wolverines having just one win since Nov. 5. Despite their trends, the two teams are close in their goals per game with Michigan State averaging 3.2 to Michigan's three.

Michigan State will head to Yost Ice Arena on Friday and hopes to continue their streak of late, the game will be televised on Fox Sports Detroit and Saturday's game between the two at Munn Ice Arena will be covered on Big Ten Network.