Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans are back in the NCAA tournament on the hunt for their fourth straight Final Four appearance. While this team does not bring the resume as some of it's predecessors, it does bring that Michigan State toughness that Izzo so often brings into the Tournament. MSU will get after opponents with their nasty "junkyard dog" defense which prevents opponents from running set plays. They have held their opponents to 63.5 ppg on .391 shooting percentage which was top in the rugged Big Ten. This particular group of Spartans are young, but in typical style, Coach Izzo has molded this team into a winner and has them hitting their stride in time for the NCAAs.
The Spartans are not known for an explosive offensive but they sure are efficient. They are 2nd in the Big Ten in field goal % (.467) while they lead in three point % (.403). They have three players averaging in double figures. The Spartans are lead by point guard Marcus Taylor (16.8 ppg), forward Adam Ballinger (11.4 ppg), and wing guard Chris Hill (11.1 ppg). They do look to bang it inside as their big men in particular Ballinger and Anagonye.
The famed "Junkyard Dog" defense is the talk of the Big Ten. They will deny the 3 pointer holding opponents to .298% while the inside people will keep you from getting easy baskets (opponents were held to .391 shooting %). Their effort and toughness keeps the Spartans in games until the end. What they will do is wear you down, keeping the game close and try to win it late. They know how to play in a close games. Eleven of their games were decided by 5 points or less.
The Spartans intend to challenge for every rebound. They lead the Big Ten by grabbing 1100 rebounds. Anagonye (6.3) and Ballinger (7.0) lead the way MSU. Especially watch Anagonye on the offensive boards.
The youth of the backcourt may have lead to the low 14.48 assist per game average. Taylor (5.3 apg) leads the team while he had 1.71 assist to turnover ratio. Keep your eyes on Ballinger. He is an excellent passer.
Izzo has issues when it comes to the depth of MSU. Unlike the past, they are no longer able to run players in waves to beat a team. That being said, don't look at the lack of depth to be a major problem in the first round game. Ten days of rest and Izzo's ability to utilize a bench should be able to compensate for the problem.
Tom Izzo is without a doubt one of the best coaches in America. He has worked absolute wonders at Michigan State, culminating with winning the 2000 Championship. He has a remarkable 16-3 tournament record which is the best winning percentage of all-time (.842). Izzo leadership has established MSU as the second best program in the nation.
For all that Michigan State does not have as compared to past Spartan teams, they were still able to cause havoc in a tight Big Ten race. Despite the loss to Indiana in the conference tournament, they were one of the hottest teams late in the season winning their last five games. The placement as a number 10 seed by the NCAA could well prove as a motivating factor. MSU is a team to be reckoned with.
The fact that MSU learned over the season to win close games bodes well for the Spartans. MSU will put the NC State's "arc and go" offense in the junkyard: Michigan State 62 NC State 58