Saturday, December 8, 2012

Early thoughts on Michigan State's basketball season

Michigan State is off to an 8-2 start through 10 games.
Given some of the tough opponents early on, I think that is a pretty reasonable mark for the Spartans at this point in the season.
MSU handed Kansas its only loss of the season, and the two losses for the Spartans have come against 1-loss Miami and 2-loss Connecticut.
Still, Michigan State has had some shaky performances, with the narrow wins over Boise State and Lafayette coming to mind.
As a team, it is still quite hard to say what Michigan State is. At times they have looked brilliant. Other times they have looked awful.
It won’t surprise me if MSU ends up being a team that plays to the level of its competition throughout Big Ten play.
I don’t think the Spartans will get blown out, but I don’t see them having the all-around talent to light up many teams in the conference either.
Gary Harris has been as good as Michigan State could hope for from a true freshman. He is second on the team in scoring (13 ppg) and shooting 53.3% from the field. MSU was a noticeably different team when he was not playing due to a shoulder injury.
Keith Appling has been the team leader, which was expected. He is averaging 14.6 points per game and also leading the team in assists, with 45. Appling has still had his rough moments on the floor, though, and I am not completely sold that he is a players capable of leading MSU to a championship.
I do give credit to the development of Adreian Payne. He has been more impactful than I expected and he is also shooting 89.5 percent from the charity stripe, which is a great stat for a man of his size.
The Spartans have the potential to be great, but they face an uphill climb in the Big Ten. The majority of games in conference play will be a battle and the Spartans are relying on some young talent to be durable throughout the season.
The key to the season will be in leadership, and whether or not Appling can handle to the role of the go-to player. We all know he can score, but being a leader is about more than that.

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