Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why isn't Draymond Green in the national POY conversation?

Yesterday, I was watching "The Experts" on ESPNU and the topic of national player of the year came up. Not surprisingly, the debate was about Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Kansas' Thomas Robinson. It's the same debate everywhere you look.

Why isn't Draymond Green getting any love?

Also yesterday, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports posted a side-by-side comparison of Davis and Robinson, which you can see here. (According to Eisenberg,'s straw poll had Jared Sullinger in third, so.... yeah). (Update: The latest poll has Green in a very distant third).

I decided to add Green to the comparison. Here is the result:

As you can see, Green's overall numbers are quite comparable. He's between Davis and Robinson in terms of points, but his field-goal percentage is lower because he frequently takes and hits jump shots. Green is making 41 percent of his three-point shots (44-for-108), while Robinson is 4-for-11 and Davis is 0-for-8. Green is on pace to become the first player to average 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists since Tim Duncan, who won the award in the late 1990s.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 70-55 loss at Indiana

(Box score here)

When Indiana beat Kentucky earlier this season, we knew the Hoosiers were for real.

Not necessarily "contend for Big Ten title" real, but "they're going to be a lot of good teams at home" real. Since that Kentucky win, I've said the game in Bloomington would be the toughest of the season for MSU. With a chance to win an outright championship, MSU's frequent comeback attempts fell short in a 70-55 loss.

MSU (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big Ten) likely will need to beat Ohio State on Sunday to win the Big Ten championship outright.

In a game where only Draymond Green could do anything on offense, the Spartans actually found themselves trailing just 55-49 with seven minutes to play after being down double-digits for most of the game. But the lack of offensive weapons and tired legs led to a 15-6 run for the rest of the game. MSU had one field goal in the final 7:21, and that came with 18 seconds left.

( highlights)

MSU grabbed an early 4-1 lead to start the game, but Victor Oladipo answered for Indiana (22-7, 10-7). Oladipo consistently drove past MSU to the hoop in the first half, sometimes making a shot, but usually getting fouled and hitting his free throws. He scored 11 points in the first half, despite shooting just 2-for-4. But he went 7-for-8 from the free throw line. The Spartans couldn't defend without fouling, and Green was the only person who could score for MSU. He scored MSU's last 14 points of the first half, and MSU went into the locker room down 41-27. The Hoosiers went 16-for-18 from the free-throw line in the half.

Tuesday notes from NFL Combine (Trenton Robinson)

Tuesday was the final day at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and defensive backs wrapped things up by going through on-field drills.

Although the class of safeties in this draft isn't great, Trenton Robinson had a solid performance. His results were as follows:

Bench press: 15 reps (fourth-fewest among safeties)

40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds (second-best among safeties)

Vertical jump: 35.0 inches

Broad jump: 125.0 inches (fourth-best among safeties)

20-yard shuttle: 4.15 seconds (fourth-best among safeties)

Robinson talked with media on Sunday (via @MSU_Football)
I asked National Football Post's Dion Caputi what the day meant for Robinson and where he was projecting. Caputi responded, "4-5 range, I think he cemented good mid-rd value"

Shane Hallam of said Robinson helped himself in the drills, but needs to get noticed more.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller did a seven-round draft, which you can see here. Miller had Kirk Cousins and Jerel Worthy going in the second round (Cousins before Worthy) and Brian Linthicum, Trenton Robinson and B.J. Cunningham going in the sixth round.

Next up for the Spartans is Pro Day, which will take place on March 14.

Here are recaps of each day at the Combine. Which of the six Spartans performed the best? Vote on the right side of this page.

Four former Spartans on College Football Hall of Fame ballot

The National Football Foundation released its 2012 College Football Hall of Fame ballot today, and MSU is well-represented.

Lorenzo White, Kirk Gibson and Percy Snow are the former Spartan players on the list. Former head coach Darryl Rogers also is up for induction.

The class will be announced on May 15 and will be inducted on Dec. 4.

White was a two-time All-American and is the all-time leading rusher in MSU history. White led the nation in rushing in 1985 and helped lead MSU to a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl win in the 1987 season.

How deep are these Spartans?

Yesterday, I was watching the 2009 Final Four game against UConn on The Vault, when something caught my eye.

There was a point in the middle of the game where MSU didn't have a single starter on the floor. Again, this is the Final Four, and Tom Izzo trusts so many guys on his team that he'll put five non-starters out there. The 2009 team may have been Izzo's deepest. Ten players averaged at least 9.5 minutes per game (plus Idong Ibok, who averaged 5.9 minutes but played a lot against UConn) and they all contributed in some way.

That got me thinking about this year's team. MSU has gotten a lot out of its bench, probably a lot more than expected. Looking at the numbers, MSU has nine players who average at least 8.6 minutes per game.

That 2009 team had four seniors (Walton, Suton, Ibok, Gray). This year's team has three (Green, Thornton, Wood). Both had one junior who contributed (Morgan in '09, Nix in '12).

So I decided to go back and compare this year's team's depth compared to past seasons.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday notes from NFL Combine (Jerel Worthy)

Jerel Worthy was the only Spartan to do drills today in Indianapolis, as it was the day for defensive linemen and linebackers to perform on the field. Worthy came into the day being a likely late first- or early second-round pick. His results were as follows:

40-yard dash: 5.08 seconds

Vertical jump: 28.5 inches

Broad jump: 107 inches

3-cone drill: 7.60 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.56 seconds

It doesn't appear that Worthy did the bench press. Overall, Worthy's speed numbers weren't spectacular, but some of these drills aren't that important for defensive linemen. For example, the 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash is more important than the 40 itself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday notes from NFL Combine

As seems to be the case frequently, every time a Spartan works in front of scouts, they're impressing. And no Spartan is impressing more than Kirk Cousins. 

Russ Lande of The Sporting News had the highest praise for the former MSU quarterback, saying Cousins is putting himself in the discussion for the first round. ESPN's Todd McShay wasn't quite as high on Cousins, but said on Sportscenter that he quietly is moving toward the second round.

(Go to 2:20 to see McShay talk Cousins)

Cousins didn't shine in the athleticism drills (you can see the numbers here), but in the passing drills, he impressed a lot of people. Dion Caputi of National Football Post tweeted that Cousins "threw with nice timing in the early group. Lead receivers well, passed with accuracy. Solid overall."

Izzo on Big Ten championship

From MSU:

“It’s kind of weird when you are at a practice and you find out that you’ve at least shared part of a Big Ten Championship because we cherish those. And you’re right, every year that is a goal of ours – now it’s a goal no matter how good we are. I would admit that this year it wasn’t the first goal because we thought getting better every day was needed to even have a chance at a Big Ten Championship. 

And then when we got where we’re in the hunt, we reassessed our goals and started moving forward. Now that part of it is there, the ultimate goal of any basketball, football team is to win an outright Big Ten Championship. So I won’t lie – we’re excited and proud of what’s been accomplished so far, but it’s minuscule compared to what we have a chance to accomplish down the road. And we’re going to keep working for our ultimate goals, which as we reassess, are now to win the Big Ten outright, to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year, to go into the Big Ten Tournament feeling good about ourselves, to try to get the highest seed we can get which will help us in the NCAA Tournament. 

So because of that I can’t really talk much about this because it’s just one small part that at the end of the year will become a major part no matter what ends up happening. But for right now it’s just one more mile marker on our trip to the ultimate goal.”

“DayDay and Austin are even more important now. We knew going into this (upcoming week) that we could play awfully good and come back 0-2. That’s just the way it is in the Big Ten as we’ve learned so vividly in the last couple of days. It’ pretty exciting the opportunity we have and all I said is ‘guys, let’s keep our eyes on the prize.’ The prize has been reassessed and re-evaluated and we’ve kind of upped it a little bit. And that’s a good thing, that’s not a bad thing. 

I am going to rely on Draymond and Austin, rely on my staff and I’m going to talk about this tonight and then I’m going to focus in on the job we have and probably not talk about it again until the banquet.”

(via @TomLeyden)

Spartans win Big Ten championship

I have to admit I didn't give it much of a chance.

I didn't think Wisconsin could go into Columbus and defeat Ohio State. Alas, the Badgers did just that, clinching a share of one of the most unlikely Big Ten championships in MSU history. The Wisconsin win comes one day after Purdue won at Michigan, putting the Wolverines two games back of MSU.

The Spartans can win the title outright with a win in one of the final two games.

Coming into the season, it seemed like making the NCAA tournament would be considered a success for this MSU team. In the end, the Spartans could win an outright title and end up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. U-M's hopes actually got a boost, as they'll be rooting for MSU to lose its last two while the Wolverines try to win their last two games. There is a shot at a three-way tie. Only MSU controls its fate.

The championship is the seventh for Izzo, becoming the fifth Big Ten coach to accomplish that feat. It's also MSU's third Big Ten championship in four years. Draymond Green and Austin Thornton become the fourth MSU senior class to win three conference crowns. (2000, 01, 02).

Icers split at Notre Dame, earn first-round bye (w/ highlights)

(Friday box score here, Saturday box score here)

Heading into the weekend, the MSU hockey team had surprised many in Tom Anastos' first season, but its position in the CCHA standings was still very much in doubt.

After splitting with Notre Dame in South Bend (losing 2-0 Friday and winning 4-2 Saturday), the Spartans earned a first-round bye in the CCHA Tournament, finishing fifth in the standings. However, MSU will have to travel to Miami (Ohio) in the quarterfinals.

With the regular season officially in the books, MSU defenseman Torey Krug became the fifth Spartan to win the CCHA scoring title, and the first MSU defenseman.

On Friday, the Irish showed why they were the preseason No. 1 team, carrying the play for much of the night. Notre Dame score 2:31 into the second period, and an insurance goal in the third period sealed the Spartans' fate. It was just the second time this season that MSU had been shut out, coming at one of the worst possible times. Anastos was not happy with the Spartans as evidence by his postgame quotes.

However, because of other games in the CCHA, the Spartans were guaranteed a top-five finish in the CCHA. But they no longer controlled their fate, as Miami jumped ahead of MSU.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 62-34 win over Nebraska

(Box score here)

As expected, MSU cruised to victory against Nebraska by a score of 62-34. After a slow-paced first half, the Spartans got moving on offense before pulling away. But what the game meant was more important than what happened.

Draymond Green became the fourth player in MSU history to reach 1,000 rebounds, and the Spartans are one win (or one Ohio State loss) away from clinching a share of the Big Ten title, thanks to Purdue's win at Michigan.  A goal that seemed too lofty before the season began is close to becoming a reality, but with games at Indiana and against Ohio State remaining, it's far from assured.

( highlights)

MSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead, Nebraska didn't score its first points until nearly five minutes into the game, and the rest of the half was ugly. Despite shooting 50 percent, the Spartans only led 23-15 at halftime. The issue was getting shots on offense. MSU shot just 9-for-18 and had eight turnovers, struggling against a zone defense again.

Saturday notes from NFL Combine

Workouts started in Indianapolis, and several Spartans have been drawing rave reviews. Here is a collection of stuff regarding the six MSU players at the Combine. (Full schedule here).

--According to the Freep's Dave Birkett, Edwin Baker did 20 reps on the bench press and measured in a 5-foot-8, 2004 pounds. 

Birkett also has a story on Cousins proving he can be an NFL quarterback. 

Also from the Freep, a breakdown of all local products (from Michigan high schools or colleges) who are at the Combine or could get drafted.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday notes from NFL Combine

Workouts still don't happen for a few days, but the early groups have started to get measurements and talked with the media. (Full schedule here).

Here is a collection of notes on the six Spartans in Indianapolis, from media members there.

--The Spartan Sports Network has audio interviews with Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham.

Cousins was asked about being back at the site of the Big Ten championship game. Here was his response to SSN:  

"Being back here in Indianapolis and walking back onto that field today for the first time since that game was a bittersweet moment. It's neat to be back here and think of all the accomplishments we had at Michigan State to get us to that game, and how well we played in that game. But then you think about how close you were to a Rose Bowl and how close you were to a second consecutive Big Ten championship. And the way we fell short was tough.

About that technical foul on Appling

When Keith Appling received a technical foul for hanging on the rim during Tuesday's, Twitter lit up.

Yes, it was a foul based on how officials are calling things, but is it a dumb rule?

According to the NCAA rule bookPlayers should not be permitted to hang on or grasp the basket ring in an  excessive, emphatic manner during dunks when there is no possibility of a resulting injury occurring. The intent of the rule does not permit a player to hold the ring and lift his or her body or legs, or in general, hang on or grasp the ring for emphasis. This is especially true for a player who dunks the ball on a breakaway or when no defender is nearby. Injuries, sometimes serious, can occur as a result of grasping/hanging on the ring. Game delays also result when damaged equipment must be fixed or replaced. When there is no obvious injury circumstance to be avoided by grasping/hanging on the ring, doing so in an emphatic matter is a (men) CLASS B and (women) Player/Substitute technical foul.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heathcote latest 'Icon' to be profiled

The Big Ten Network show "Big Ten Icons" will feature former MSU men's basketball coach Jud Heathcote this weekend.

The show will premiere at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, shortly following MSU's game against Nebraska. It will be replayed throughout the weekend.

Along with profiling Heathcote's coaching career, there will be interviews with Greg Kelser, Tom Izzo, Jack Ebling, Dan Wetzel and others.

Here is the full BTN release on the show.

Thoughts on MSU's 66-61 win at Minnesota

(Box score here, best of #LawofGus tonight here)

We've spent all season saying how this team was different that last year's team. Well, Thursday night was almost an exact copy of last season.

One year ago, a dismal shooting performance in Minneapolis led to MSU trailing the Gophers 47-39 with 3:41 to go. But MSU rallied, Keith Appling hit some late free throws to give MSU the lead, and the Spartans won 53-48.

Thursday night, the Gophers led 58-52 with 3:25 to play, but the Spartans rallied down the stretch, Appling hit free throws to give MSU the lead, and MSU came away with a 66-61 victory.

Oh, and both games came on Feb. 22.

With the win, MSU (23-5 overall, 12-3 Big Ten) still controls its destiny in terms of an outright Big Ten title. Winning two of the final three games would guarantee at least a share of the title.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Magic Johnson: Draymond Green will 'definitely' make NBA

Former Spartan and NBA great Magic Johnson held a teleconference this afternoon and talked about a variety of topics.

Along with talking about the NBA, the upcoming documentary on his announcement that he had HIV and the Magic/Bird Broadway play, he answered some questions about the Spartans. (Full transcript here).

On MSU's success this season:

"I think they share the ball.  This is the best passing team we've had probably since Mateen's team, Mateen Cleaves and them.  Also the way they play with each other has been outstanding.  They really pull for one another.  This is Tom Izzo type team, Coach Izzo type team.  He has done a wonderful job of coaching them. 

Hollis named to NCAA basketball committee

MSU athletics director Mark Hollis and Delaware AD Bernard Muir have been named to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee. The pair will begin five-year terms on Sept. 1.

This is the committee that selects and seeds the NCAA Tournament field every year.

NFL Combine begins, but not yet for Spartans

The first players are getting started at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis today, but there won't be any 40 times or vertical jumps for a few days.

Groups 1, 2 and 3, which includes special teams, offensive linemen and tight ends will be going through registration, hospital pre-exams, X-rays, orientation and interviews today. All other position groups begin later in the week.

No Spartan is in these first three groups, but there are six Spartans who will be working out in Indy: quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Edwin Baker, wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and safety Trenton Robinson.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In his fifth year, Thornton finally finds his role

There's no question Draymond Green is the leader of this team. Everyone and their grandmother knows that.

But there was a moment against Purdue that stuck out. After a whistle, the five Spartans were huddled around on the court — and Green wasn't saying a word. Instead, Austin Thornton was talking to each player, and Green was deferring to his fellow senior. Green has been the outspoken leader of the team, but Thornton has been right there as another important leader.

Given that this is Thornton's fifth year in the program, the former walk-on guard has seen it all and earned respect. And recently, his on-court play is matching up with off-court leadership. Coming off a career-high 17 points at Purdue, Thornton has hit multiple shots in three of the last four games, and Tom Izzo is starting to run plays for him.

Thornton passed up scholarship opportunities to walk-on at MSU in 2007. A big reason he chose MSU was to stay close to his son, born in 2006 (please read that story). Tom Izzo gave out three scholarships to guards in the 2007 recruiting class — Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen — leaving Thornton and Mike Kebler as walk-on players, and little room for playing time.

But when Maurice Joseph transferred in the summer of 2007, Thornton was given a scholarship — temporarily. He redshirted in 2007-08, and Kebler won MSU's walk-on award, although he only played nine games. Thornton went back to walk-on status for the 2008-09 season.

Green named USBWA National Player of the Week

Draymond Green was already named to the midseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, which is awarded by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to the national player of the year, and he seems to be gaining momentum for the award, being named national player of the week today.

ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected Michigan State forward Draymond Green as its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week for games ending the week of Sunday, Feb. 19. The USBWA's weekly honor is presented by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and has been handed out each Tuesday this season. Green is the season's final recipient. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Spartans on All Two-Star (And Fewer) Team

A few weeks ago, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated sent out a tweet that he was putting together a list of top college players who were overlooked by the recruiting services, given two stars or fewer.

The list came out today, and, to no surprise, a few Spartans made the team: Le'Veon Bell and Darqueze Dennard.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 76-62 win over Purdue

(Box score here)

Two years ago, MSU went to Purdue one game after Robbie Hummel had suffered his first season-ending knee injury.

The talk from MSU before the game was that sometimes a team rallies in the first game after something bad happens. The Spartans won the game 53-44 en route to a Big Ten championship. The talk leading into Sunday's game was similar, as Purdue had dismissed Kelsey Barlow and suspended D.J. Byrd for one game.

It almost worked this time. The Boilermakers led the Spartans at halftime behind some hot shooting, but MSU locked down defensively in the second half, coming away with a 76-62 win at Mackey Arena.

With the win, the Spartans (22-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten) are alone atop the Big Ten standings, one game ahead of Michigan and Ohio State. It was MSU's first regular season sweep of Purdue (17-10, 7-7) since 2004-05.

( highlights)

Draymond Green led MSU with 20 points, along with 10 rebounds and seven assists. It was his fifth game this season with 20-10-5. No other player in Division I has more than two.

Austin Thornton turned in a career-high 17 points and is becoming a well-rounded scoring option for MSU. Thornton shot 6-for-10 and 1-for-3 from three-point range. It was even more impressive since he was sick and threw up in the first half.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Icers sweep Alaska, move into CCHA top four (w/ highlights)

(Friday box score here, Saturday box score here)

MSU's senior class has had the definition of up-and-down careers.

Their first season came after MSU had made three straight NCAA Tournaments, but the Spartans lost 23 games and finished 11th in the CCHA in 2008-09 — the worst season in decades for MSU. In 2009-10, they rebounded to finish second in the CCHA. But a late-season collapse (including a home sweep to Michigan in the CCHA Tournament) left them out of the NCAA Tournament. Last season was another disaster — a 10th place finish with head coach Rick Comley retiring after the season.

But with this weekend's sweep of Alaska, the Spartans now sit in fourth place in the CCHA and are getting closer to their first NCAA Tournament. MSU won Friday's game 3-2 in overtime and shut out the Nanooks 3-0 in Saturday's game, sending out its largest senior class (nine) since 1977-78 on a high note.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 69-55 win against Wisconsin

(Box score here)

Shortly after MSU and Wisconsin got off to their typical ugly start, MSU athletics director Mark Hollis tweeted, "Tacos?" The tweet referred to the free tacos a ticket stub gets you when the Spartans score at least 70 points.

The way the game started, the joke was funny. These teams rarely ever score that much when they meet. But by the end of the night, Hollis almost proved prophetic in MSU's 69-55 win over Wisconsin — the Spartans' biggest victory over the Badgers since February 2000.

With the win, the Spartans (21-5 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) moved back into a tie atop the Big Ten with Ohio State, while the Badgers (19-7, 8-5) fell to two games back of the leaders.

( highlights)

I was covering the game for, and you can see my game story here. (Wisconsin player audio here)

After MSU ended a decade-long losing streak in Madison in January, the Badgers were hoping to win at Breslin Center for the first time since 2004. Instead, Wisconsin lost its seventh straight game in East Lansing, while MSU won its 17th straight.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

MSU starts All-America campaigns for Green, Krug

As they've done in other sports, MSU has started a campaign for one of its student-athletes with a website, this time it's for Draymond Green.

The website includes stats, a photo gallery and a highlight video (which you can see below) in an attempt to help Green earn All-America honors.

MSU has made similar sites in the past for football players Javon Ringer and Greg Jones, who ended up earning All-America honors.

MSU also recently made a promotional website for hockey defenseman Torey Krug, which you can see here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Border Battle

For the past few months or so, I've been trying to start the #borderbattle movement.

The Border Battle is my fun attempt to give MSU-Wisconsin rivalry a nickname, although it has extended to any sports contest between teams from Michigan and Wisconsin (Lions-Packers, Pistons-Bucks, etc.). The joke is that the states share a border in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that few (lower peninsula folks) don't think about. Kansas and Missouri have had the Border War, which dates back to the 1890s. Michigan's border with Wisconsin is longer than those with Ohio or Indiana

But other than the Packers, there haven't really been any Wisconsin teams hated by fans in Michigan until recently. The main fights of the border battle have come between the Michigan State Spartans and the University of Wisconsin Badgers. While Bret Bielema has raised the level on the gridiron between the teams, this hatred starts with Bo Ryan and the basketball rivalry. And the Border Battle doesn't mean more to anyone than proud UP-native Tom Izzo.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Report: Maryland quarterback possibly interested in MSU. Or not?

The transfers out of Maryland seem to never end. But one player reportedly has interest in MSU.

Quarterback Danny O'Brien, who lost his starting job before being injured last season, is on track to graduate and would be able to transfer and be able to play at a new school right away. The schools he reportedly is interested in are MSU, Wisconsin, Stanford and Vanderbilt. But Maryland won't let him go to Vanderbilt, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Why MSU would be on his list is a bit of a mystery. Andrew Maxwell has been groomed to take over this offense and all signs point to him sliding right in to replace Kirk Cousins. It should be noted that we don't know if the interest is mutual.

Wisconsin and Stanford seem like much better fits. Both are graduating senior quarterbacks and don't have proven backups. Plus, Wisconsin has become known for taking in transfer quarterbacks like Russell Wilson. Former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist almost transferred to Wisconsin recently, but opted for Kansas.

The link above is a story from before O'Brien officially left Maryland. A story published by the Sun yesterday did not include MSU as one of O'Brien's choices.

Bottom line: I would be utterly shocked if O'Brien ended up at MSU. The Spartans don't need him anyway.

An Appling a day keeps the doctor away (or something like that)

When MSU jumped out to a 4-0 start in the Big Ten, Keith Appling made Spartan fans and Tom Izzo forget all about Korie Lucious, who was supposed to be the point guard this season before being suspended and transferring late last season.

In his first season as the point guard, Appling had rebounded from a slow start to average 17.5 points, 5.5 assists and two turnovers in the Spartans' first four Big Ten games, hitting at least half of his shots in three of those games.

After defeating Iowa on Jan. 10 — a game in which Appling had nine assists and no turnovers, Izzo said he wouldn't trade Appling to get Lucious back. But since those words, Appling has struggled.

The Spartans have gone 5-3 over the last eight games. In that time, Appling has averaged 10.3 points on 34 percent shooting from the field. His assist-to-turnover numbers are 28/27. While the Spartans picked up a huge win over Ohio State on Saturday, Appling shot 4-for-10 and had zero assists to seven turnovers while being harassed by Aaron Craft all night.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Poll: Who is the most disliked Big Ten basketball coach?

Piggybacking off what's Big Ten bloggers did with football, I'm throwing out a similar poll with men's basketball.

The Big Ten has some of the best coaches in college basketball, but also some of the most hated. Often that goes hand-in-hand.

I kind of have a feeling how this is going to turn out, but vote on the right side of this page for the most disliked coach.

Former Spartan shaving head to raise money

Former Spartan hockey player and current Florida Panther defenseman Mike Weaver will be shaving his head for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which raises money to fight childhood cancers.

On Weaver's page, which you can read here, he writes: "Your gift will give hope to infants, children, teens and young adults fighting childhood cancers. So when I ask for your support, I'm really asking you to support these kids. Thank you!"

The page says the goal was $1,000 and already $1,250 has been raised, but there's no such thing as enough money donated to fight cancer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Slamming for Chair-ity

Remember that chair Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery slammed on the Breslin Center floor back in January? It went to a good cause (no, not the technical foul).

The chair was signed by McCaffery and auctioned off for $2,100 at the Iowa Baseball Steak Fry tonight, according to this tweet from Iowa baseball communications director Mark Weitzel. The money went toward Iowa's baseball program.

Along with the signature, the McCaffery wrote "Coach with a passion!" and "Go Hawks."

(h/t @jordangarretson)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Icers split weekend with rival Michigan

(Friday box score here, Saturday box score here)

With only three series left, the Spartan hockey team was running out of opportunities to pick up ground in the CCHA standings.

This weekend, the Spartans nearly came away with six points, and they nearly came away with no points. They finished the weekend with three points in a series split against Michigan, winning in East Lansing on Friday and losing in overtime in Detroit on Saturday.

On Friday, the Spartans fell behind 2-0 in the second period, but then Torey Krug took over. A one-time shot from the blue line got through a crowd and past Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick to cut the deficit to 2-1. In the third period, Krug scored a powerplay goal on a delayed shot from the point to tie the game. On another powerplay a few minutes later, a backhanded shot by Krug in the slot deflected over to Matt Berry, who buried the puck to give MSU a 3-2 lead. The Spartans killed a penalty in the final minutes and held on for the win. Will Yanakeff made 28 saves for MSU.

Saturday's game at Joe Louis Arena was a high-energy back-and-forth affair. The Wolverines led 1-0 after the first period, but Greg Wolfe tied the game up 3:32 into the second. Brett Perlini scored a powerplay goal a few minutes later to give MSU the lead. But U-M evened things up heading into the third. The third period was full of scoring chances on both sides, but, Yanakeff and Hunwick kept coming up with big saves.

Thoughts on MSU's 58-48 win over Ohio State

(Box score here)

Before this season started, MSU's streak of 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments appeared in jeopardy. Yeah, we heard the team's chemistry was a lot better, but only two starters were returning and there were a ton of question marks.

Now here we are, less than a month until Selection Sunday and the Spartans (20-5 overall, 9-3) are tied atop the Big Ten after Saturday's 58-48 win over Ohio State (21-4, 9-3) in Columbus.

To say this has been Tom Izzo's best coaching job would be a discredit to how well the players are playing, but he's having a blast coaching for them, and the Spartans are having a blast playing together. They're not the most talented, but they're playing as well as any team Izzo has had.

( highlights)

The game was never really in doubt in the second half. MSU took an 13-12 lead with 11:22 left in the first and didn't trail the rest of the way. The Spartans took a 35-25 lead into the locker room, with Payne scoring 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the half, but MSU's defense was the story of the half, holding Ohio State without a field-goal in a nine-minute stretch. The Buckeyes had three field goals in the final 15 minutes of the half.

Friday, February 10, 2012

ESPN doc on Magic Johnson to air in March

ESPN will air a documentary on Magic Johnson's announcement revealing that he had contracted HIV. It's not a "30 for 30," but these ESPN films have always been spectacular. The documentary will air at 9 p.m. on March 11.

Here is a New York Times story on the film, and below is the trailer.

MSU hockey pregame videos: Michigan

As I've done for other big games, here are some MSU hockey highlight videos against Michigan in East Lansing. A big series starts tonight with the teams facing off in East Lansing at 7:30 p.m. on BTN. (Note: The national championship win against Boston College is on BTN at 5:30).

With the Winter Classic announcement yesterday, here's the one that started it all:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Harris named McDonald's All-American

For the third straight season, MSU has an incoming freshman named a McDonald's All-American. This time, it's guard Gary Harris.

The last two seasons, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson have represented MSU at the game, which will take place on March 28 in Chicago.

Harris is rated the No. 11 recruit in the nation, according to, which has MSU's incoming freshman class ranked No. 10 in the country.

To illustrate how important the game is, in 2010, Appling took 15 shots in 17 minutes, including nine three-pointers, finishing with 10 points. It's pretty much every man for himself showing off in front of people.

The first McDonald's All-American team was named in 1977 and included future Spartan Earvin "Magic" Johnson. MSU has had 15 McDonald's All-Americans all-time.

It's official: GLI at Comerica Park

The 2013 NHL Winter Classic has been the worst kept secret in sports.

Finally on Thursday, it was announced that the Winter Classic game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs would be played at Michigan Stadium, with all the other activities being played at Comerica Park. These other games include the Great Lakes Invitational, which will include MSU, U-M, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan.

I think the most exciting part of this is that the Wings are playing the Leafs. It's a shame that these teams barely ever play. It could easily be the best rivalry in the NHL.

As for the GLI, it's good to see that the tournament will include all Michigan teams. I've always thought that's how it should be. It definitely would help with attendance at Joe Louis Arena. Given all the games going on — and how I expect prices to be quite high — I'm curious to see how the GLI will fare in ticket sales. Also factor in the school's football teams, which could be playing in bowl games around the same time.

What do you think of the plan? Do you like it? Should they have chosen one location for everything? Vote in the poll on the right side of the page.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 77-57 win vs. Penn State

(Box score here)

It's OK to talk about Saturday's showdown with Ohio State now.

As bad as Penn State has been this season, this still looked like a trap game. After going up big early, Penn State cut the lead to five in the second half. But MSU finished on a 20-6 run en route to a 77-57 win, matching last year's win total with its 19th of the season.

( highlights)

The game was ugly early as MSU (19-5 overall, 8-3 Big Ten) started 1-for-9 from the floor. But Penn State (10-15, 2-10) started 0-for-8 and didn't score its first points until nearly eight minutes into the game. MSU defense was stifling, taking a 33-19 lead into halftime. 

Show me the money: Top basketball alumni earners

Today, the Wall Street Journal came out with a list of schools whose basketball alumni have made the most money in professional basketball.

The list includes players who entered the NBA in or after 1985 — the year the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams.

Only two Big Ten teams made the top 25: Michigan at No. 5 and MSU at No. 14. Not a surprise that UNC and Duke were Nos. 1 and 2.

According to the list, MSU basketball alumni have made $389 million since 1985, with Zach Randolph and Jason Richardson as the top earners. Other notable Spartans in the NBA since then include Eric Snow, Scott Skiles, Morris Peterson and Shannon Brown. If you were to base the list off the Izzo era, MSU probably would be much higher.

It doesn't look like the list includes players who went overseas to try to make a career, and MSU has had plenty of those recently, including Drew Neitzel, Drew Naymick, Goran Suton, Travis Walton and Kalin Lucas. Charlie Bell is now in Italy too. While playing overseas can be viewed as failure by some fans, there are worse things to do in life than making a career playing a game in a place like this.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

All your wide receivers

After signing four receivers to letters of intent for the 2012 recruiting class and picking up transfer DeAnthony Arnett, MSU has added one more wide receiver: Tres Barksdale of Ohio, who will be a preferred walk-on. Yeah, they're making up for their losses at the position.

"Tres Barksdale is an outstanding all-around athlete, who comes from a very good high school program," (Mark) Dantonio said. "He has attended our summer camps, so we have first-hand knowledge of his skill set. Tres has great size, so he can go over the middle or up in a crowd to make a catch. He's also displayed the ability to gain yards after the catch. We look forward to his further development as a player and believe he'll have a very productive career at Michigan State."

Six Spartans invited to NFL Combine

Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Trenton Robinson had been invited to the NFL Combine a few weeks ago. Now the final list has come out, and Jerel Worthy and Edwin Baker have been added, according to MSU.

The Combine will take place from Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis. The six invites are the most for MSU since 2000.

Neither of the additions are a surprise, as Worthy is a potential first-rounder and the LSJ reported Baker had been invited a few weeks ago.

It is a bit of a surprise that Brian Linthicum is not on the list, which is why his performance at the Senior Bowl was so important.

Not to start a recruiting argument again, but five of the six Spartans invited to the Combine were rated three-star or two-star recruits out of high school. Only Baker was a four-star recruit. Not bad.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Green named to Oscar Robertson midseason watch list

Draymond Green is one of 20 players (three Big Ten) to be named to the watch list for the Oscar Robertson Award, which honors the nation's top player as voted by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

From the release

ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected 20 outstanding players for its 2012 Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List. Members of the association's board of directors chose the players to be included on the list as contenders for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, to be presented to the national player of the year by its namesake in New Orleans at the USBWA's College Basketball Awards Breakfast on March 30.

Torey Krug's awesome practice goal

MSU had a skills competition in practice today. According to head coach Tom Anastos, forward Brett Perlini had a 100 mph shot and defenseman Torey Krug scored this awesome goal.

There seems to be some debate as to whether or not this goal would be legal in a game. Hand passes in the opposing zone are illegal, but the NHL rulebook doesn't say anything about a pass like that to yourself. Either way, I'm not totally sure if Krug did hit it with his hand. It looked like he wanted to, but might have missed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Greg Jones is happy his team won the Super Bowl (and that he got engaged)

Via @SpartanJerseys
Former Spartans Devin Thomas and Greg Jones were a part of the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants, albeit a small part, as they mostly play on special teams (though Thomas recovered two fumbles in the NFC Championship) Still, congrats to both.

Last year. Jones got a Big Ten championship ring, now he'll get a Super Bowl ring.

UPDATE: Greg Jones got engaged last night. This tweet from Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich let the world know first. Per's Mike Garafolo, Jones had a practice squad tight end hold the ring during the game, and Jones popped the question to former MSU women's basketball player Mandy Piechowski on the field after the game with confetti all around. Here's ESPN New York's story, with quotes and a photo gallery of the proposal. Very cool. Congrats to Greg.

UPDATE AGAIN: Now there's a video of the proposal. Well, actually right after she said yes, it looks like.

Via @IamDevinThomas

Thoughts on MSU's 64-54 win over Michigan

(Box score here)

Draymond Green was the story before the game for multiple reasons, including his poor performances against Michigan and his injured left knee.

As it turned out, Green was the story of the game for different reasons, tying the U-M team in rebounds and leading the Spartans to a 64-54 win over the Wolverines.

"Draymond didn't want to go out losing four in a row to them," Tom Izzo said. Hopefully we switched the trend and it will start going the other way again."

The day belonged to the senior, as Green backed up his guarantee with 14 points, 16 rebounds and four assists to move to 4-3 against U-M (17-7 overall, 7-4 Big Ten) in his career. Before the game, he said he hated the Wolverines, and only death would keep him out of Sunday's game. The grim reaper was nowhere in sight.

While the Izzone chanted "little sister" as the final seconds counted down, don't expect "order to be restored," as it were. As I said before the game, this U-M program is still on the upswing, as is MSU (18-5, 7-3). The rivalry won't be like the old days, but this was an old-time performance by MSU.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ice hockey picks up sweep at Ohio State

(Box score here)

After the first period of Friday's game, MSU trailed No. 10 Ohio State 3-1. Given what the team had done so far in 2012, I texted my friend and told him the Spartans were starting to tailspin. MSU scored eight of the next 10 goals in the series, resulting in a sweep and me eating my words.

MSU won 6-3 on Friday and held on for a 3-2 win on Saturday, dramatically helping their NCAA Tournament chances. MSU now is 4-1-1 against top-10 teams this season.

As mentioned before, the Spartans gave up a goal one minute in and trailed 3-1 after one period on Friday, but rebounded with a three-goal third. The goals came from A.J. Sturges — his first in 175 games — Torey Krug and Matt Crandell. With about five minutes left in the third, Chris Forfar redirected a loose puck to give MSU a 5-3 lead. Matt Berry's empty netter sealed the comeback. Will Yanakeff had 41 saves in goal — his third game with at least 40 saves this season.

(Video highlights of Friday's game from MSU here)

(Saturday highlights)

Some pregame videos


The game by which all MSU wins are compared:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dantonio statement on recruiting, Urban Meyer

From MSU:

“There’s a need to correct some inaccurate news accounts that have appeared over the last two days. Let me be clear: some general recruiting statements I made were completely taken out of context when combined together by a reporter not in attendance. The timing of my comments was a reflection of an occurring matter on Signing Day and had nothing to do with Urban Meyer and Ohio State. My comments regarding ‘unethical’ behavior were general in nature, according to my current coaching philosophy, and not directed toward any particular institution.”

The best college rivalry continues Sunday

We walked past the tailgates around Michigan Stadium.

It was 2008, and my friend and I were walking around the athletic facilities before the MSU-Michigan football game. When we neared Crisler Arena, we saw an elderly man standing by himself.

“Is that John Beilein?” I asked.

It was. So we walked over, and both shook his hand. He’s lot stronger than he looks, based on that handshake.

We talked some basketball. The Wolverines were coming off a rough 10-22 season, but were starting to make ground in recruiting. It was an uphill climb. He jokingly said that the facilities he pitched to recruits were like communist Russia compared to what MSU and Tom Izzo had.

That was a long time ago.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 2012 recruiting class

Toward the end of Mark Dantonio's presentation to the media about his newest recruits yesterday, there was a line that caught my attention.

"Right now, based on our record, I would say we have very, very few misses as recruiters here."

The line was in response to a question about the decision to offer every recruit four-year scholarships, something the Big Ten was pushing this year. But it also was a reflection of signing day as a whole. MSU never has elite recruiting classes, but they've won 11 games in back-to-back seasons led by average recruits and have become one of the top programs in the Big Ten.

(For video of the entire presser, click here)

But if they don't bring in top talent, how can they win?

This isn't going to turn into one of those "Player X is good and he only had three stars" arguments. Recruiting obviously is vital to success. There's a reason the SEC has won six straight national championships: they have the best players. But they also have the best coaches. Outside of the top 100 players or so, you have to trust coaches' ability to evaluate talent more than the analysts, as Joe Rexrode put it.

You can be successful without pulling in the top players every year. It's about finding players that fit and being able to develop them, and Dantonio and the MSU coaches have proven they can do it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MRI shows sprained knee for Green

Huge news for MSU as Draymond Green's left knee injury suffered last night is only a sprain, according to MSU.

Green is day-to-day, which is good, because MSU has four days until the game against Michigan. He also was dealing with the flu last night. I don't expect him to be close to 100 percent, but having him available for Sunday and the rest of the season is a huge relief for MSU.

Aren't you glad we didn't go down the "What if he's out for the year?" road last night?

It's National Overreacting Day!

OK, maybe that's a little harsh.

I used to despise signing day and everything that had to do with it. You never know how guys are going to project, so what's the point of getting so excited?

But then I read "Three and Out," John U. Bacon's behind-the-scenes look at Rich Rodriguez's Michigan program. Then I really realized how much the day meant to coaches. Coaches who miss out on so much time with their families, looking to find players who can help them keep their jobs.

Mark Dantonio and the Spartan coaching staff aren't in that position. They've built a program over five years. They obviously want the best players, but they don't need a a freshman to come in and fill a starting spot right away. MSU has found success thanks to three-star recruits like Greg Jones, Kirk Cousins, Joel Foreman and Jerel Worthy. But success also has come thanks to bigger recruits like Will Gholston. Last season, Taiwan Jones and Matt Giampapa were the only true freshmen who played for MSU, a sign of depth within the program.