Big Ten Opener: MSU vs. Iowa

It's time to kick off another year of Big Ten basketball, but this time around, Tom Izzo doesn't have a big three player trio leading the way. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes Adam Haluska is a potent scoring threat for Iowa.

EAST LANSING - It's time to kick off another year of Big Ten basketball, but this time around, Tom Izzo doesn't have a big three player trio leading the way.

Instead, Izzo's team has looked like a one-player team many times this season, riding junior guard Drew Neitzel to victory.

There is a lot of room for improvement with this year's Spartans, who have no seniors on the squad.

Although the team has several flaws, such as turnovers and three-point shooting defense, Izzo's team sits in a good position to make some noise in conference play.

Michigan State's defense is getting back to a traditional Tom Izzo team, ranking second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (54.9 PPG), first in rebounding defense (28.7 RPG), and second in blocked shots (5.8 BPG).

Izzo has the luxury of having two hot big-men right now in Goran Suton and Marquise Gray.

Suton is coming off a career-high 27 points against Loyola (MD) and Gray tallied a double-double in the same game.

These big-guys, along with Idong Ibok and Drew Naymick are collectively grabbing rebounds on both sides of the court and have the Spartans ranking at the top of the Big Ten in defensive rebounds per game (25.6 RPG).

Izzo has done a good job rotating the four guys down low during non-conference play and their subbing should increase during conference play in order to stay fresh.

These four guys will be key indicators of how the Spartans will fare in Big Ten play, as MSU is 13-1 this season when they have out rebounded their opponent. Their only loss came at Boston College where they lost the battle on the boards 37-36.

The fact remains, on paper, the Spartans are a 13-2 team whose only two losses came to two very good teams, but at the same time struggled in games against weaker opponents such as Chicago State and Belmont.

So many might be wondering if the Spartans even have a chance against the Big Ten's elite, such as Ohio State, Wisconsin, and always a Spartan killer, Illinois.

In a complex and extended answer, the Spartans have a great chance at competing for a Big Ten title.

Granted many things have to fall in place. It is certain that Izzo has had his team doing extra drills in practice over the holidays on holding on to the ball.

The Spartans need to show toughness and emotion out on that court and chase after every loose ball like it meant the game.

Eating up every rebound on the glass is crucial for success against bigger teams, like Greg Oden at Ohio State,

While Izzo had plenty of offense on last year's team, they seemed to forget how to play defense at times and play one-dimensional basketball.

One year later and about to start another quest for that Big Ten conference title, the first regular season title since 2000, Izzo has a great mix of young players that play strong and hard on both ends of the court.

Izzo's past teams have made noise by surprising people not only in the Big Ten but in the national media.

There is a reason that Michigan State has made four Final Fours in the last eight years and it is a good bet that Tom Izzo will have his team prepared to play on Thursday in Michigan State's Big Ten opener at Iowa, because of that reason.

Overall, the defense is there, the shooters are there, and now it is time to see if this Spartan team can pull together and play with the passion and determination it takes to win a Big Ten title.

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