Around the Big Ten 2010-11: Michigan State

Dylan Burkhardt

Next up in our series of preseason interviews, Michigan State and Kyle from The Only Colors. As you probably already know, KJ and the rest of his team do a tremendous job covering Michigan State and always provide quality analysis. Here are his thoughts and predictions on Michigan State’s upcoming season.

[Previously: Minnesota / Ohio State]

Last year I asked you if things could be any better in East Lansing and you provided the following goals for the season: "Contention for a repeat conference championship and another run to the Final Four"… Well done my friend. Is there any reason to expect something different this year?

Well, if you’ll excuse the wrong-sport metaphor, I think the goalposts have moved one more marker down the field. With nine of the top 11 players returning from a team coming off its second consecutive Final Four appearance, a national championship has to be the goal. Now, winning a national title isn’t really a fair expectation for any team, no matter how much talent and experience they might have, given the nature of the NCAA Tournament. Certainly, a third straight year of winning at least a share of the Big Ten title and advancing to the Final Four would be a success by any reasonable measure, but, fair or unfair, there will be at least some level of disappointment if the Spartans fall short of winning the whole thing.


Kalin Lucas is back but he’s recovering from that nasty injury, what’s the latest on his health?

He’s been back on the basketball court as of the last few weeks. My nonexpert understanding is that athletes return from injuries like Achilles’ tears much more quickly than they used to, but you have to assume there’ll still be a period during the early part of the season in which Lucas has to work back toward his full level of explosiveness. I’d expect to see him focus a little more on distributing the ball (and perhaps shooting the three), with Durrell Summers and Draymond Green taking larger scoring/playmaking roles. Lucas’ assist percentage fell about five points last season from what he’d posted as a freshman/sophomore, as he often worked to get open shots off the ball. A rebound in the frequency he assists on his teammates’ scores would likely be a good thing for both him and the team.

Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen are gone but I’m more interested in who’s still there. Tell me about Durrell Summers. Did he put it all together for good during last year’s NCAA tournament run or will he still be frustratingly inconsistent?

I’m optimistic that Summers is ready to put it together for a full season this year. Being thrust into the role of primary perimeter scorer during the NCAA Tournament last season seemed to make something click. He had no choice but to look for his shot and came up big in the process, recording only the second five-game double-digit scoring streak of his career. With Lucas coming back from injury and Chris Allen not being around to alternate games as the off-the-ball 3-point marksman, Summers should be in a similar situation to start this season. Summers obviously has the athleticism to be a key offensive contributor on a regular basis. Whether he can fulfill that potential will be a major key for MSU this season.

Everyone loves to talk about Draymond Green and rightfully so. You can mention his ridiculous rebounding, assist, and defensive numbers, but tell me how his role will change with Raymar Morgan gone.

With the talented but fairly thin group of perimeter players on the Spartan roster (Lucas, Summers, Korie Lucious, Keith Appling, and the two walk-ons), I’m starting to think Green will play some at the 3 spot. That’ll create some defensive issues—since Tom Izzo generally has his perimeter defenders switch on all picks—but it should also hopefully create some offensive mismatches going the other way and make MSU an even more dominant rebounding team. (Most small forwards don’t post defensive rebounding percentages of 25%.) I’d also expect to see Green take a few more midrange jumpers this year, filling Morgan’s void; his jumpshot became more and more consistent as last season went along. Green’s shooting numbers of .550 on two-pointers and .672 from the line were almost identical to Morgan’s (.544/.671), on nearly as many shooting attempts.


The freshmen class is obviously highly touted, how do some of these kids fit in with the current team? Is Keith Appling ready to take Chris Allen’s place? Where does Adreian Payne fit in the front court?

Appling is going to have no choice but to be a productive member of the rotation right off the bat. He’ll be the first guard off the bench—if he doesn’t beat Korie Lucious out for a starting spot. Lucious’ recent minor knee surgery will put even more pressure on Appling to be a key factor right out of the gate. All reports I’ve read (many of them from UMHoops!) indicate he’s a college-ready guard right now. It sounds like he can handle the increased physicality of the college game, and the reports are that he’s gotten in sync with his teammates very quickly in summer workouts.

Payne should have a little more time to adjust to the college game, with Green and Delvon Roe being the effective starters up front and Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman having a year of experience under their belts in the front court rotation. I’d expect Izzo to use Payne a little like Zach Randolph in 2001: unleash his freakish athleticism for 15-20 minutes per game to pull down some offensive rebounds and outrun opposing big men in transition.

Record prediction? Conference and overall.

I expect the nonc
onference schedule to be a bit of a bumpy ride given the number of players coming off injury issues over the offseason. I’ll say 10-3 there, with the team going 3-3 against BCS league opponents (South Carolina, assumed two BCS teams in Maui, Duke, Syracuse, Texas). A Big Ten record of 14-4 would be acceptable—and probably good enough for a share of the title—given the strength at the top of the league. That’s be 27-7 going into the Big Ten Tournament. If they can beat that regular season mark, it’ll be a sign there very well prepared for a run toward the NCAA title.


Most feared player in the conference?

I’ll go with Robbie Hummel. For a guy with a usage rate below 25.0, he has an amazing ability to dominate a basketball game. He’s just so fundamentally sound, always making the right pass (his turnover rate, 8.6%, looks like it’s missing a digit), being in the right place to get a rebound, and hitting the 3-pointer at the crucial moment. You could see just how important he is to Purdue when he was injured at the end of the season; Johnson and Moore weren’t the same players without him.

Runner up: Demetri McCamey. When he was on last season, he was nearly as unstoppable as Evan Turner—knocking down long 3-pointers and dishing out bucketloads of assists (assist rate: 40.8, tops in the entire nation).

Projected most improved player in the conference?

Maybe this is just my Spartan neurosis regarding the Badgers kicking in, but I’d look for Jordan Taylor to blossom this season. He posted a very solid offensive rating of 110.1 last year, ranking in the top 200 nationally in both assist and turnover percentage. With Trevon Hughes’ graduation, Taylor will be the main guy running the show for Bo Ryan. Somehow, Ryan always manages to gets production out of upperclassmen thrust into top offensive roles.

Projected conference champs?

I think you have to give the edge to Purdue. They were in position to win the thing last season before Hummel’s injury. His health is obviously the key again this season. That said, the differences are very slim between Purdue and MSU. Purdue’s core trio of Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E’Twaun Moore probably has a slight edge over the Lucas/Green/Summers, at least in terms of past production. MSU’s supporting cast has more potential, but it remains to be seen how much of that potential will be harnessed this season. Finally, Ohio State may be the most interesting team to watch early in the season. The Buckeyes return four of five starters and add another potential freshman stud, but finding a new game plan with Evan Turner no longer around to make the Buckeye offense go round will be a bit of a trick.

Toughest place to play in the Big Ten?

As an MSU fan, I have no choice but to say the Kohl Center (I told you it was a neurosis). The Spartans have a seemingly incurable knack for falling apart when they go to Madison. A win against the Badgers on the road would be a clear signal that this year’s Spartan squad is able to compete at even more consistent level of performance than the last two seasons’ teams have.

Do you think your team wins their Big Ten/ACC challenge game and why?

I have to pick against MSU at this point. Cameron Indoor Arena is obviously not an easy place to play, particularly for a team with some young players making significant contributions early in the season. And Duke is perhaps the one team in the country with more talent in place than MSU (albeit less experienced talent). Avoiding the kind of first-half meltdowns MSU has experienced against ACC opposition (read: North Carolina) in nonconference play the last two years will be a major challenge.

  • Section13Row15

    A very good, realistic projection and analysis of the 2010-2011 Spartans.

  • JB

    Great write up on state. Let’s not tip toe around anything though, their offseason legal issues are salient and could still affect their season. There’s still a lot of offseason left too.

    Byrd might be out for the season, not that he’s expected to be a big contributor yet.

  • MSU Fan

    As of now, it looks there won’t be any further action re: bball player allegations.

    Until the prosecutors do anything, I think it’s pretty safe to assume nothing will happen.

    The bigger issue is injuries. The lack of court time together will hurt at the start of the season, but in true Izzo fashion we’ll be clicking in February and March when the real season starts ….

  • Tr

    There are NO legal issues, JB.

  • matt d

    I find it hard to believe that any OBJECTIVE Spartan fan or analyst truly believes this is a champinoship or bust season. I’m not going to say that they don’t have a good team, because that would be foolish. However, the reality is that they probably had the EASIEST tourny schedule by any 5 seed in the history of the dance, and combine that with the fact that they BARELY ESCAPED 2 o f those games leads me to question just how good MSU is. MSU’s most productive frontcourt player in Morgan is now gone, they are riddled with injuries at the PG spot(Lucas, Lucious), Payne is haveing shoulder issues, and Roe always finds a way to get injured as well. Add all that up, I would have to believe that Purdue is the odds on favorite in the B10, and I certainly don’t think MSU is a legit contendor for the Final 4 as of right now. Truth of the matter is that they were a good team(NOT GREAT) last year that struggled in half court sets, got the benefit of easy tourney oppenents, and is severly banged up at the present time. I’d say expectations should be tempered a bit.

  • They did play without Lucas for a majority of their tournament run, which balances out the “easy competition” argument in the tournament.

  • JB

    Not trying to start an argument here. A dui and rape allegations are “legal issues.” The dui is old news and although it does not appear the allegations will lead to charges, that could change any day.

  • Section13Row15

    Plus, the MSU blogger conceded that Purdue would beat them for the Big 10 championship. How is that not an objective opinion? And when your team goes to the Final 4 two years in a row and as many times in the last decade as MSU has, it becomes hard to say that they aren’t a great team or it was because of their tournament schedule. Minnesota guy was not as objective as this guy is.

  • It is the pre-season. Opinion is all there is. Supporting an opinion is the challenge and fun, but opinions are everyones right. This is not directed at any one item, just a general overview.

  • wayman britt

    Hats off to MSU’s program. I agree, another final four again. MSU is the best clean basketball program in the nation.

    I only hope we can begin to become at least competitive with them. I thought UM would get closer over the last ten years, but it has not happen. Hopefully, in the next 5.

  • matt d

    Some people will kill me for this, but I’ll say it anyway:

    MSU Basketball 2009-10 = Iowa Football 20009

    at least 5 wins by the thinnest of margins, to me they are overrated heading into the season a top 5 team. Disregarding the record, they simply didn’t look like a top 5 team last year, they are a great defensive team no doubt, but they lack outside shooting, a true post presence, and point guard play was suspect to say the least.

  • aMaized
  • AG2

    I’m not going to say MSU is overrated, but I could see them finishing 3rd behind OSU and Illinois though.

  • Kevin in GR

    Robbie Hummel out for the year with torn ACL, per Big 10 Network

  • Bill

    Big blow to Purdue.

  • Terrible. Just terrible news. Gotta feel for Purdue fans and especially Hummel. Same knee that he blew out last year.

  • kevin

    hey sorry about that comment, as you can see by the time it was late and i had a few to drink. didn’t mean to talk badly about anyone or start anything.

  • Drew

    I feel very badly for Purdue but Hummel especially. He’s easily my favorite non-Michigan player in the B10. Classy dude.

  • AG2

    That’s heartbreaking. A friend of mine is a Purdue grad and he was so disappointed when it happened last year. Unbelievable.

  • ryan

    I hope Pointer, Burke and Bundidge enjoy the booing of the Michigan fans at the big house. That is absolutely ridiculous. That will do nothing productive, unless you are trying to hurt recruiting, and the morale of your team.

  • Jimmy

    Although we lost, the game ended up being an awesome atmosphere. I hope Pointer enjoyed himself because I could really use some good news.

  • That Guy

    Matt D-

    That is comical. Suspect PG play for MSU? You mean 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas? They went to the Final Four with a backup PG, beat the team that beat Kansas and the team that beat Ohio St. Then they played Butler to the final seconds who played Duke to the final seconds. All this without their best player. Overrated? If not for the Lucas injury MSU continues to blow out Maryland, then dominates Northern Iowa and Tennessee. You cannot honestly believe Kalin Lucas would not have made 2 points of difference against Butler.

    Michigan State was legit last year and this year.

  • That Guy

    And I am really disappointed about Hummel. Fun to watch and a great talent. Hopefully he comes back even better.

  • ummapinnna

    Manny ain’t make no mistake !!!!! He balling for Cleveland and he might be Belien first player that he coached ( not anyone coached that Belien recruited) to make it to the NBA . So that’s one less recruit ploy and myth that coaches can sell when recruiting against us now .

    Lmao @ everyone who doubted Manny . He PSL product and might turn out to be a solid pro. Hey CDR is a solid PSL product as Willie Green imo.

    On side note if we get Dom Pointer make I’m gonna go crazy. !!!!!! I don’t know his stats last year but the kid will give us another defender with CC and Horford . This program is finally shaping up .

  • wayman britt

    Mr. Pointer I hope you had a nice time in Ann Arbor and the university. Don’t take account too much on how the football team did today, unlike the football program the basketball program is heading in the right direction.

    Coach Beilien will make you a better player in every facet of your game. Come join the team and you will have the chance to be the man. You could be the player who leads UM basketball back to the top.

  • matt d

    That Guy,

    Yeah I’m talking about the same suspect PG play that made MSU 8th in the Big 10 in assist/turnover ratio, and 8th in 3% as well. Say whatever you want, but everyone knows that both Lucas and Lucious were a TO waiting to happen last year. The reality is that when MSU plays a lock down defensive team that forces them to play in half court sets, they simply weren’t that good last year.

    MSU’s biggest strength is rebounding, which allows them to get into transition baskebtall and get easy buckets. They’re a good defensive team as well, but are they a top 5 team………HELL NO. They were beating up on inferior teams in the tourney last year(except for Tennessee). You say Lucas is worth 2 points…… do you know that? It looked to me like Butler simply bullied MSU around, they were the more phsyical team, and certainly the better defensive team, and I really don’t think Kalin Lucas would’ve mattered. Secondly, when they beat Tennesse, how many bad calls where there against Tennesse in the last 2 minutes? Seriously, Draymond Green literally jumps on a guys back right under the basket, and you hear no whistle, but no more than 30 seconds later they blow the whistle on Tennesse for the EXACT SAME THING.

    Honestly, there is no way MSU was a top 5 team last year, they simply went on a run against the easiest tourney schedule for a 5 seed ever. Combine that with the fact that their best player is coming off a severe injury, they lost their most productive front court player in Morgan, their best recruit is having shoulder problems, I’d say a top ranking is a BIG REACH to say the least. I’d say somewhere in the range of #15 is more like it.

    Not saying MSU isn’t a good team, but they’re not the world beaters that some make them out to be. I don’t care about the Final 4 last year, they simply didn’t past the eye test and played subpar competition when it mattered, and THERE IS NO WAY THEY ARE BETTER THAN LAST YEAR.

  • msu fan

    Re: easy bracket – The games are single game elimination. Just ask Kansas how easy the bracket was. Maybe even Kentucky and their inability to find the bottom of the net from beyond the arc. The fact of the matter is, no matter how easy or hard the games are, you have to win. There’s a reason you hear Survive And Advance a million times in March. A 40 point blow out win in the first round is no different than a 1 point squeaker in the Sweet Sixteen.

    Re: point guard play – Kalin Lucas is the MSU playmaker. He isn’t asked to simply distribute to the wings. How many times did we see him put a dagger in the team when Izzo gave him the ball? While i’d love to see a better Assist / TO ratio, using only those stats overlooks what the PG is asked to do at MSU.

    Re: overrated – I’m not a big fan of preseason polls in CFB or CBB. However as long as journalists need something to talk about in the offseason we’ll still have them. At least in CBB you’ll see numerous teams enter and exit the top 25 on a regular basis. Fighting inertia is much easier. You can believe MSU is overrated and I’m sure we’ll lose some games with our murderous non-con schedule, but Izzo schedules those games because he knows the MSU fans want to see them and it gets our team ready for March. I’ll take 3-4 tough losses in a non-con if it helps us find 3-4 wins in March somehow.

    Never ever bet against Tom Izzo in March. Sure we had a lull for a few years that included early exits, but 6 FF’s in 12 years and one of the top all-time winning percentages in the NCAA Tournament says Izzo knows what he’s doing. Doesn’t matter how much or how little talent we have compared to the other teams, we’ll find a way to win.

    Re: Better than last year – I think we are. Sure losing Morgan is a big blow, statistically he was one of MSU’s all-time greats. Chris Allen hurts on the perimeter D too. However we brought in plenty of talent to offset the losses and Durrell Summers seems to have really found the next level and I hope to see him elevate his game.

    Re: what MSU lacks – every team lacked something last year. Kansas was probably closest to being the most complete team. It’s about hiding your deficiencies and playing to your strengths. You can probably say the same thing this year. There’s probably 6-8 teams that have a legit shot at a title. But isn’t that what makes it fun? :)

  • ummapinnna

    Is it me but do I see the following players that we have on the roster comparable to the following players ?

    Pointer = equal a touch Benard Robinson J.R

    Carleton Brididgue = kalid El AMIN ( hopefully more Earl Watson or Baron Davis cause he has great handle)

    Trey Burke = Taylor Battle

    Joh Horford = Tony Battie

    Evan Smot = Gordan Hayaward

    Jordon Morgan = Peter Vignir with more skill.

    Blake Mclaimins = Chris Young

    Hardaway J.R = Manny Harris or Lester Abrams.

    Colton Christain = Alan Anderson or Brandon Johnson

  • matt d

    Regarding Izzo, you’re right – I would never bet against the man in March, he’s been phenomenal to say the least. April – now that’s a different story, I’d like to see his winning% for that month, probably not very good. Izzo is perhaps the best motivational coach in the country, he does get the most of his talent. X’s and O’s are a different story though, I don’t think he’s that great of a tactical coach.

  • AG2

    I too would not bet against Izzo come tournament time…except against Roy Williams. Izzo keeps thinking his team can run with Carolina, when all that happens is they commit turnovers.

  • Sam

    I couldn’t agree more with matt d’s last statement. Izzo has obviously generated phenomenal results and he is a very fiery coach, but when it comes to straight Xs and Os I’ll take Beilein in a heartbeat. Give them the same amount of talent (which I believe we are working toward at a good rate) and I have no doubt Beilein will do more with it.

  • grandchamp21

    Izzo doing so well in the NCAA tournament makes him look like a genius but in reality he underachieves every regular season with the exception of last season. The tournament is all that matters though so I am not knocking him but just making an observation. When Duke or Uconn make the final for every other year nobody is surprised because they have great regular seasons every year. When Izzo teams make the final four they make him out to be a genius because they under perform during the regular season.

  • Dirtgrain

    It’s possible that Izzo creates teams designed for end-of-the-year success. They play physical ball. That works well when the refs swallow the whistles at tournament time. I have no statistical analysis to support this possibility, but I wonder. If this is true, then one cannot say they are under-performing in the regular season. Is there an easy way to compare “physical ball” statistics for MSU in the regular season and post-season? I’m thinking fouls, free throws attempted, steals, blocks–by MSU and opponents.

  • fracowmandog

    All this talk about how people would take beilein over izzo is hilarious. I am a maryland fan and from the outside looking in this is hilarious. Izzo is easily one of the best coaches (no need to break down whatever you think he’s good at) out there bar none. His track record proves that. It doesnt matter if you think he’s better at one thing or the other, he wins – at a rate michigan cant even dream about. Not to rub some salt in old wounds but when michigan goes to even 3 final fours (without cheating) then they can even BEGIN to start comparing the two schools and coaches.

    Again, this is not to offend anyone. I believe beilein is a respectable guy and will be successful at michigan – his style provides a system that is capable of beating anyone, completely depends on how well the team is shooting on any given night (though it does mean they can lose to anyone as well).

  • sullycu

    “small forward Dominique Pointer, who has narrowed his list to Michigan and West Virginia. ”

  • Old article sullycu… Not sure we can trust the NY Post here. It’s Michigan and St. Johns.

  • sullycu

    oct. 14 i think was when it was posted…still, probably a typo or something.

  • Kenny

    scullycu, latest from Pointer’s dad, WV was eliminated. For NY Post, it is just bad journalism, if there is any journalism at all.

  • ryan

    I know he said that we will find out at the latest in a couple of days,
    but if he did commit on his visit would we know already or would that start leaking out tomorrow?

  • That Guy

    X and O’s are one of the things Izzo does the absolute best in the country. That is why he is so incredibly successful. His set plays are legendary. I think the turnovers come from the fact that they have so many plays that require so much timing. No offense but U of M’s offense does not call for much execution. In AA last year MSU had something like 20 turnovers while Michigan had 3. Shooting 3 pointers on fast breaks (both ill advised and good decisions alike) and missing just count as misses rather than what they are tantamount to.

    It is frustrating to have the turnovers but you can’t argue with success. It is insane to even have to defend Tom Izzo against someone saying his teams underachieve. Went to the Final Four as a 1,1,1,5,2 and 5. Looks to me like meeting expectations or exceeding them. MSU has won some piece of the Big Ten title 7 times (tourney and season) in his 13 seasons.

    Tennessee was better than Ohio St. Northern Iowa beat Kansas. Maryland beat Duke last year. There have been far easier roads. Take Michigan State’s road to the Final Four in ’01. MSU beat the 16,9,12 and 11 seed to make the Final Four. In 2010 it was the 12,4,8 and 6. (of course now you’ll say both were “easy”. Remember that team had Jason Richardson, Charlie Bell, Zach Randolph and Andre Hutson.)

    Yes I can easily say the best player on Michigan State’s team, and far better defender than Korie Lucious, would have provided the difference between a loss and a win vs Butler.

    I think Beilien is a good coach and he will have success once he gets the right guys to run his system.

  • AG2

    I will agree about one thing: there’s not much difference between a poorly-missed 3 and a turnover.

  • A missed shot has a chance to score, a turn over is like a short putt, with zero chance of success. Low turn overs and high shooting percentage are not mutually exclusive.

  • Msu Fan

    I admire everyone who says they’d take Beilein over Izzo. But honestly ask yourself, if given the option, would you flip the coaches?

    The bottom line is every school wants a winner. Beilein hasn’t yet proven he can win at UM. I think he will if he gets more time.

    However to thumb your nose at a coach with 6 FFs and a title is really odd. Izzo realistically has 7-10 years left. Imagine the heights he can take MSU in that time. He may only have one title, but he’s at least giving his teams a chance to get more. Would you really turn him down just because his teams only got to a FF???

  • matt d

    MSU Fan,

    On that basis, would you rather have Steve Fisher than Izzo? He won a championship, and went to 3 FF’s in 5 years. Yet, he’s not considered a great coach. I understand the backlash here – with the Martin scandal and all, but the point is that just because you go to FFs doesn’t mean that you’re a good coach, it simply means that you have good players and that you’re probably at least a decent coach. I still maintaint that JB could do more with your roster than Izzo. JB is simply a better tactical coach than Izzo, he just doesn’t have the talent right now to show it.