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Monday, January 20, 2014

MSU Hoops Pick and Roll: Inaugural Edition

Our feature on MSU BASKETBALL brings diverse responses to
a variety of questions related to the Spartans program. 

Pick & Roll will be published periodically during the season and weekly through post season action.

Our Panelists:
ATownAndDown (Follow A-Town on M-Live)
SpartanMan82 (Check out SM82's Basketball Posts)

This Week's Questions:
1. Is Tom Izzo about to pop a vein in his neck, or what? Explain what we're seeing with all of the ferocious intensity from our favorite Coach.

2. The Spartans seem to be sputtering at times, yet they are matching long-standing team records and setting new ones almost every game. Will this team live up to its highest expectations?

3. Quick guess, who leaves early from MSU after this year?

Panelist Responses:

1. Is Tom Izzo about to pop a vein in his neck, or what? Explain what we're seeing with all of the ferocious intensity from our favorite Coach.

SpartanMan82 (Check out SM82's Basketball Posts)
I think people are making too big of a deal out of it. I know some people are revolted to see what they believe is a repugnant image, but I'm still seeing it as an aberration largely specific to Valentine, who he's known since birth. When you recruit a player as an assistant coach, then recruit his sons, the coach/player relationship is a little different. I don't think any of us can truly know how it's different, or how it feels to be different in that way, or any of it. Denzel's brother sits right behind the bench, and his Dad stepped down from high school coaching (after two consecutive state championships) largely to pay attention to his son at MSU. So I'm sure everybody in the Valentine/Izzo camp is on track with everything.

We can speculate as amateur psychologists about the motivations and fears of Tom Izzo, and how they all translate into what we've seen him like lately. Or we can just let it ride, likely to not see much of that exact same stuff again, for a variety of reasons. I choose to let it ride.

ATownAndDown (Follow A-Town on M-Live)
I think Izzo's intensity comes from two places: frustration and motivation. This year's team plays a lot like a really good NBA team will. Those teams that seem to "turn it on" whenever they want to. The problem is they are not always on and almost seem like they are not in it. Then they turn it on and go for an 18-3 run. I think Izzo knows he has something special here with this group and the fact that they let teams hang around or they try to coast to wins, instead of coming out and just dominating the competition is frustrating (add in the injuries and lineup juggling and you have one frustrated coach). At the same time he doesn't want this team to fall too far into the trap thinking they can just go at anytime. We saw it against OSU. With 8 minutes to go they were in chill mode and when they tried to turn it on around 3 minutes, it wasn't there. He is pushing these guys as much as he can so they don't fall asleep at the wheel.

As Posted by Return2Glory on M-Live: return2glory |
Izzo has such a high balance in his emotional bank account with each player that it allows him take withdrawals and not get into the red (overdrawn). He makes so many deposits into their emotional bank account the withdrawals hardly matter.

Reader Response: kmak
That's a good way to put it. Many are missing the whole picture. Where were all the nay-sayers when Izzo was out giving Green an unbridled bear hug on the court after a play well-done? These kids know Izzo has there backs. We may see him yell and walk away, but what we don't always see is the compassionate conversation he takes the time to have in the locker room with his players after the game and give them a pat on the back or sometimes a bear hug.

2. The Spartans seem to be sputtering at times, yet they are matching long-standing team records and setting new ones almost every game. Will this team live up to its highest expectations?

ATownAndDown (Follow A-Town on M-Live)
So much can go off kilter in college basketball. Come Tourney time, one loss means you are done. This team has the goods. It seemed like MSU always has a good balance where their are 2-3 guys that can push that 20 point area in any game and then there are a few others that don't surprise in double figures. This year Appling, Payne, or Harris can push 30 any given night. Dawson, Valentine, Trice and Kaminski have all scored 15 or more points in games this year. This team is a Championship caliber team. Its crazy to think about the injuries and bad breaks this group has gotten and they are still 17-1. Only 3 players have played in all 18 contests this year: Appling, Valentine and Schilling. And guys like Costello, Payne, Harris, Dawson and Trice have battled through illness or injury in a few of those contests they were in. If the team can get healthy and Izzo can do what Izzo seems to always do, this team is scary.

SpartanMan82 (Check out SM82's Basketball Posts)
They are certainly in position for everything other than the undefeated season. But the "highest expectation" is the National Championship, and those can no more be guaranteed in January than they can in March. So we'll have to see about that.

But most of the "sputtering" appears to have been part of the annual process of re-creating a new team. To have only one loss, and none in the conference after five games, puts MSU in the driver's seat as the other teams all play begin to each other.

If the Payne-to-Gain process pays dividends with a truly healthy player before too long, everything else seems to be falling into place for a strong February and beyond. The Costello mono-thing should gradually dissipate, as he first sat out for it six weeks ago. Harris seems quite functional and reports that his ankle is better every day. The injuries to Appling by definition will take time, but with time they will heal, as they are not chronic or stress-induced. (Appling suffered impact bruises to one side of his body from a fall he took on December 4.) In the meantime, other players are stepping in and trying to step up. If everybody is healthy and the team is at full strength when the finish-line starts coming into view, this team could reach any or all of its goals.

3. Quick guess, who leaves early from MSU after this year?

SpartanMan82 (Check out SM82's Basketball Posts)
Everybody has been counting Harris as definitely gone, and understandably so, based on his apparent draft-rank status last year. But he hasn't been packing the stats recently, and I heard Jim Comparoni say that he "may" return, so I'll put Harris at 80% gone.

I've had my doubts about Dawson leaving early for some time, and his performance package doesn't look so darn draft-able right now. I'm guessing he stays, and I'm up to around 70% on that right now. There is still time for him to "make a run" with a mid-season uptick like Payne made last year. But he's on track to stay for his senior season.

If Dawson stays, gains motivation and focus like we've seen Payne do, and benefits from the increased freedom of his Senior year, MSU could remain a viable team next year. (It will be a tough comedown even with him, but without him, much harder.)

ATownAndDown (Follow A-Town on M-Live)
Harris. And even that might not be the best decision. Really this question should be "do you think either BJ or Harris will leave?" Harris is still highly regarded but he is going to slip a bit because this is now the second year that he has had injury issues. He also might slip a little more because he has had a propensity to disappear at times. Now that could be injury related but it doesn't help that outside of Valentine he has the lowest shooting percentage on the team of the guys in the regular rotation. He has also fallen in love with his outside shot. He is on pace to shoot as many 3's as he did last year within the next 7 games. And he is hitting over 10% less of those attempts. For a guy who is supposed to be a scorer, he is not having a strong showing this season.

BJ is improved over last year but he needs to experience a revolution to be catching any NBA eyes. Even if he does that he might be in the AP boat and better off coming back for a senior year. BJ has still has a tendency to not play 100% all the time. We have seen Izzo sit him because of his effort this year. And while BJ has shown some improvement in his offensive game he is not NBA ready. The guy is 6-6, 225 lbs. That makes him a 2 in the NBA and no one is putting a guy on their team that is a shooting guard that can't (or won't) put up the long ball. Even if you wanted him to be your 3, that is an issue because that swing spot has become the gold standard for the position you build around. Guys like LeBron, Durant, George and Carmelo, all are 3's. BJ can leap with those guys but he doesn't have the jumper or ability to create enough for himself for any team to see him as anything more than a bench guy.

So I think they should both stay but I think Harris is a strong lean toward leaving. NBA teams still draft based on what a guy could be, and not what he is, so someone with big dreams for what Harris could be will jump on him early and that is what you want as a player.

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