Michigan State is 17-4 on Senior Day under Tom Izzo. Senior guard Denzel Valentine netted 27 points last season against Ohio State, tying for the most by a Spartan senior on Senior Day under Coach Izzo, matching the 27 points Travis Trice scored vs. Purdue in 2015. On his Senior Day in 2000, Mateen Cleaves established a Big Ten record with 20 assists in a 114-63 victory over Michigan. Paul Davis grabbed 14 rebounds vs. Illinois on his senior day in 2006.
4. Breslin Advantage
Michigan State is 378-58 (.867) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 197-44 (.817) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 304-43 (.876) at Breslin, including a 156-31 (.834) conference record.
5. Spartans On Target
Michigan State ranks third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.476) and second in 3-point field-goal percentage (.381). The Spartans are even better in conference games, shooting .477 from the field to lead the Big Ten and .387 from 3-point range to rank third.
MSU vs. Wisconsin Notes
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Wisconsin, 76-64, including a 47-14 advantage in games played in East Lansing. The home team has won 18 of the last 20 games played on a college campus, with the lone exceptions being MSU’s wins in Madison in 2012 and 2013. Tom Izzo is 25-20 in his career against Wisconsin.
Greg Gard (Wisconsin-Platteville, `95) is 37-14 in his second season as a collegiate head coach at Wisconsin. He took over the Badger program on Dec. 15, 2015, following Bo Ryan’s retirement, and guided UW to the 2016 Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Gard joined Ryan’s staff at Wisconsin-Platteville in 1993, and spent the next 23 seasons with Ryan at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee and Wisconsin.
The Last Meeting
Michigan State scored the game’s first five points and never looked back in a 69-57 win over Wisconsin on Feb. 18, 2016. Less than seven minutes into the contest the Spartan lead was already in double figures at 14-3. Wisconsin scored five straight points, but a quick 9-2 run pushed the margin up to 13 points at 23-10. The Spartans led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Badgers closed on a 7-0 run to give MSU a 32-23 lead at the break. UW scored the first basket of the second half, but an 8-0 Spartan run early in the second half gave MSU a comfortable margin it would not give up, leading by as many as 22 late in the period. MSU’s defense held the Badgers to 33.9 percent shooting. Denzel Valentine led the Spartans with 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Bryn Forbes added 17 points. Ethan Happ paced Wisconsin with 18 points and Bronson Koenig added 12.
Wisconsin freshman D’Mitrik Trice is the brother of former Spartan Travis Trice (2011-15). The elder Trice finished his career with 1,135 points and earned East Regional Most Outstanding Player honors during Michigan State’s run to the 2015 Final Four. The Badgers bring an experienced group to East Lansing, with four seniors in the potential starting lineup. In addition to the Badgers’ experience, sophomore Ethan Happ leads the team in points (14.4), rebounds (8.9) and assists (2.9) and is making a push to become an All-American. Wisconsin owns the best scoring defense in the Big Ten, allowing just 61.3 ppg and is second in the conference with a +11.8 scoring margin.
Spartan Basketball Notes
Eight healthy Spartans average more than 17 minutes per game, while 10 average more than eight minutes per game (Does not include Eron Harris who is out for the year with a knee injury). Seven different players have led Michigan State in scoring in a single game. The depth has helped MSU’s reserves outscore the opponent’s bench in 24 of 28 contests, as MSU gets 29.1 points per game off the bench. Michigan State has used nine different starting lineups this season. According to KenPom.com, MSU leads the nation with non-starters playing 45.2 percent of the team’s minutes.
Too Many Turnovers
After averaging fewer than 12 turnovers in each of the last three seasons, this year’s Spartan squad is averaging 14.6 per contest. MSU is 14-5 when committing 15 or fewer turnovers and 3-6 when committing more. In Big Ten play, MSU is averaging 14.5 turnovers (13.6 in victory, 16.0 in defeat). MSU is 7-1 when having fewer turnovers than its opponent, and 10-0 when it has an advantage in points off turnovers.
Michigan State has held opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field in each of the last five seasons, including finishing second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense in 2012 (.379) and 2016 (.382). The strong defensive effort has carried over to 2016-17, as 15 opponents have been held under 40 percent, as MSU boasts a field-goal percentage defense of .407, including holding Big Ten opponents to a .423 field-goal percentage. In Big Ten victories, Spartans are holding opponents to .372, compared to .503 in defeat. MSU has held its opponent under 50 percent shooting in 26 of 28 games this season, failing to do so at Michigan and at Purdue.
Winston Lends A Hand
Freshman point guard Cassius Winston ranks second in the Big Ten with 5.4 assists per contest, and is tied for fifth with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. According to KenPom.com, Winston leads the nation in Assist Rate (assists divided by the field goals made by the player’s teammates while he is on the court) (49.9). With 151 assists on the season, he already ranks second all-time among Spartan freshmen, trailing just Earvin “Magic” Johnson (222), and having recently passed Mateen Cleaves (146), and Scott Skiles (146). The 2016 Michigan Mr. Basketball winner is fourth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and has scored in double figures in three of the last seven games, after doing it just three times in his first 21 games. Winston also tallied nine assists vs. Ohio State (Feb. 14), the most in a Big Ten game by a Spartan this season. In the last game against Nebraska, he totaled eight assists and zero turnovers.
Eron Harris suffered a significant right knee injury against Purdue (Feb. 18) that will require surgery. He becomes the third Spartan senior to suffer a season-ending knee injury this season. Ben Carter (left knee) and Gavin Schilling (right knee) sustained their injuries prior to the first game of the season.
MSU’s Freshman Class
Michigan State’s freshman class of Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston is the most productive freshman class of the Tom Izzo era, as the quartet averages a combined 42.9 points, 18.3 rebounds and 91.8 minutes, with each one starting at least five contests. Against Iowa, they each scored in double figures, marking the first time four Spartan freshmen scored in double figures in the same game under Tom Izzo. Against Nebraska, the quartet combined for a season-high 64 points, as Bridges (20 points) and Ward (20 points), became the first freshman duo to score 20 or more points at MSU since Jay Vincent and Magic Johnson did it on Jan. 5, 1978 against Minnesota. Bridges and Langford were McDonald’s All-Americans, Winston joined Bridges as Jordan Brand All-Americans and all four players were ranked in the Top 40 in the nation. The 2001-02 Spartan freshmen of Alan Anderson, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Aaron Alexander combined to average 77.4 minutes and 26.5 points, both of which previously ranked first in the Izzo era.
Draymond Green was a reserve on the NBA All-Star West team for the second-straight season. The 2012 NABC National Player of the Year is the seventh Spartan to make an All-Star Team, joining Johnny Green, Ralph Simpson (ABA), Magic Johnson, Kevin Willis, Steve Smith and Zach Randolph. Through Feb. 23, Green is averaging 10.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists for the Golden State Warriors. In a Feb. 10 contest vs. Memphis, Green became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double while scoring fewer than 10 points. In 2015, Green donated $3.1 million to MSU Athletics, which will be used in the construction of the Draymond Green Strength and Conditioning Center in the ongoing Breslin Center renovations, and towards an endowment for the basketball program.
Rejection By Ward
Despite standing just 6-foot-8, Nick Ward is proving to be a defensive presence as a shot blocker. He ranks third in the Big Ten in total blocks (48) and is tied for third in blocks per game (1.7). The 48 blocks are already the second most ever by a Spartan freshman, trailing only Deyonta Davis’ freshman season record of 64, established just last season. He blocked six shots against Northeastern (12/18), tying the Spartan freshman single-game record and matching the second most ever by a Spartan in a single game. In conference games, he ranks tied for sixth in the Big Ten in blocks (1.5 bpg).
The least heralded member of Michigan State’s freshman class, Nick Ward is proving to be an impact player. He ranks second on the team in scoring (13.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (5.9), while ranking fourth in the conference in field-goal percentage in conference games (.573) and fourth overall (.589). He’s lost 30-plus pounds since arriving on MSU’s campus in June. His per 40-minute averages of 27.2 points and 12.2 rebounds lead the Spartans among members of the core playing group. He’s scored six or more points in every game this season and has posted double-figure points in 18 of the last 22 games, averaging 14.0 ppg over that same span. In the seven games that Miles Bridges missed, Ward averaged 17.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. He’s a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week honoree, earning the accolade on Dec. 5, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. According to KenPom.com, Ward ranks second in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.9).
Big Ten Freshmen Of The Week
Michigan State has captured the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor eight times in the 15 weeks it has been presented. Miles Bridges (Nov. 14, Nov. 28, Jan. 16, Jan. 30, Feb. 20) leads the conference with five weekly honors, while Nick Ward (Dec. 5, Dec. 26, Jan. 2) has been honored three times. Bridges also was honored as the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week by the USBWA and CBS Sports on Jan. 30.
Spartans Share The Ball
Unselfishness is a trademark of all Tom Izzo teams. That has been especially true over the last three seasons as MSU has established a school record for assists in each of the last three years. Last season, MSU tallied a school record 719 assists, good for the 22nd-best total in NCAA history. MSU’s nation’s-best assist average of 20.5 was the 23rd-best average in NCAA history. The Spartans recorded an assist on a nation’s-best 71.3 percent of their field goals. This year, the Spartans are averaging 17.5 assists in 2016-17, ranking eighth in the nation, recording an assist on 67.4 percent of their field goals, which is the second-best mark in the nation.
A Senior Steps Up
Senior Alvin Ellis III has played the best basketball of his career as MSU has opened conference play. In Big Ten play, Ellis is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds, ranking third on the team in scoring and third in rebounding. The Spartans are 4-1 in Big Ten games this season in which he scores in double figures. He scored a career-best 20 points, including two game-winning free throws, in a one-point overtime victory at Minnesota. He followed with a team-best 16 points at Northwestern, adding a career-best eight rebounds. It marked the first time in his career that Ellis has led MSU in scoring, and the first time in his career that he’s scored in double figures in back-to-back contests. Ellis led the team in scoring in a win over Ohio State, as he hit a career-best six 3-pointers, five of which came in the first half.
Izzo Second In Wins At A Big Ten School
With 541 career wins, Tom Izzo has passed Gene Keady (512 wins) for second-most victories at a Big Ten school, trailing only Bob Knight (661 wins). Izzo is also third all-time with 255 Big Ten wins, trailing just Knight (353 wins) and Keady (265 wins).
Big Ten Success
Michigan State has won 13 regular-season Big Ten Championships since joining the league prior to the 1950-51 season. The Spartans’ first-ever league game was at Northwestern, where MSU claimed a 67-62 victory on Jan. 6, 1951. All-time, MSU is 613-478 (.562) in league play, including 255-118 (.684) under Tom Izzo, who ranks third in league history with 255 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to seven of its 13 league crowns. Since Izzo’s first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 255-118, 12 games better than second-place Wisconsin (243-130).
Bridges Makes An Immediate Impact
Miles Bridges is having one of the most productive freshman seasons in Michigan State history. Bridges’ scoring average of 16.3 points per game trails only Magic Johnson’s 17.0 ppg in 1977-78 as the best ever for a Spartan freshman. Only Greg Kelser (9.6 rpg, 1975-76) posted a better rebounding average than Bridges’ current 8.3 average.
Nairn’s Homecoming Provides A Spark
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. ranks second in the Big Ten with a 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, while ranking tied for ninth in the conference in assists (3.8). The junior point guard had a very productive homecoming during MSU’s play in the Battle 4 Atlantis. A native of Nassau, Nairn had arguably his best three-game stretch as a Spartan, matching or setting a career high in each game. He tied a career high in points with 13 points vs. St. John’s, and set new career highs in rebounding (6) vs. Baylor and assists (12) vs. Wichita State. He also hit 4-of-6 3-pointers, after entering the tournament with seven threes in his first 71 career games. He matched his career high with 13 points in a comeback win at Minnesota, including 11 in the second half and overtime, while also scoring 13 points vs. Penn State.
It’s All About Boardwork
Being forced to play with a smaller frontcourt due to injury, rebounding has not been the staple it normally is for Michigan State. Through 28 games, MSU has a +2.9 rebound margin, out-rebounding the opponent in 16 contests. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 580 of 756 opponents (.767), posting a 458-122 (.790) mark in those games. The Spartans have led the nation in rebounding in five of the last 17 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010, 2016), ranking in the Top 10 10 times and the Top 25 on 13 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in conference games in 13 of the last 19 years and in 14 of 21 seasons under Izzo.
From Beyond the Arc
The 2015-16 Spartans led the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.434) and made a school record 321 3-pointers. This year’s Spartan squad must replace Bryn Forbes (112) and Denzel Valentine (104) who combined for 216 3-pointers last season. MSU is shooting .381 from behind the arc this year, ranking second in the Big Ten, as Eron Harris (.387, 43-111), Miles Bridges (.408, 40-98), Alvin Ellis III (.411, 37-90) and Matt McQuaid (.337, 31-92) lead the team in made 3-pointers. Joshua Langford (.412, 14th) and Ellis (.411, 15th) rank among the Big Ten leaders in 3-point field-goal percentage. In Big Ten play, the Spartans are shooting .387 from 3-point range, ranking third in the conference.
Hall of Famer Tom Izzo
Now in his 22nd season at Michigan State, Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo has built the Spartans into one of the elite programs in the nation. MSU is the only school in the country to win 27 or more games in each of the last five seasons. The Spartans’ 19 straight NCAA Tournaments are a Big Ten record, the third-longest active streak in the nation and the fourth-longest active streak of all time. He’s been able to accomplish this while playing more ranked teams than anyone else since 1998. Michigan State has appeared in a nation’s best seven Final Fours in the last 18 seasons. Izzo’s seven Final Four trips are tied for fifth most in NCAA history. Izzo was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Sept. 9.
The Nation’s Toughest November
MSU’s game at Duke (11/29) marked the final game in what was arguably the toughest opening month in college basketball history, certainly Spartan history. With games against No. 2 Kentucky, No. 10 Arizona and No. 20 Baylor (rankings at date of game), No. 5 Duke was the fourth ranked opponent MSU played in November alone. The Spartans had never faced three Top 10 opponents in November until this season, and had never played four Top 20 non-conference opponents in a single month during the regular season. Not only did the Spartans play a diabolical slate of opponents, they faced a brutal travel schedule to open the season. Beginning with a flight to Hawaii on November 8 and ending with the return flight from Duke on Nov. 29, the Spartans traveled more than 13,600 miles in 22 days, including additional trips to New York City and the Bahamas. Five opponents from November are currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (Feb. 20), including No. 4 Arizona, No. 9 Baylor, No. 10 Duke, No. 11 Kentucky and No. 25 Wichita State.
Izzo Receives Dean Smith Award
As announced by the USBWA in October, Tom Izzo is the recipient of the 2016 Dean Smith Award. The award goes to an individual in college basketball who embodies the spirit and values of the late North Carolina coaching great. Izzo is the second person to receive the Dean Smith Award. The USBWA established the award last year and selected former Georgetown coach John Thompson as the first recipient. Among the qualities in a coach that the award is based on are honesty and integrity, being a part of players’ lives during and after college, abiding by NCAA rules, involvement in charities and the community, standing up for social issues and causes and having a reputation for treating people with respect.
Spartans In The NBA
Michigan State had a Big Ten-best eight players on NBA opening day rosters, including Denzel Valentine (Bulls), Gary Harris (Nuggets), Deyonta Davis (Grizzlies), Bryn Forbes (Spurs), Draymond Green (Warriors), Adreian Payne (Timberwolves), Zach Randolph (Grizzlies) and Alan Anderson (Clippers).
Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State’s first of 19 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 212 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (200), Texas (190), Duke (188), Kentucky (182), Illinois (179) and Michigan (176).
Strength of Schedule
In total, the 2016-17 schedule features 15 teams that appeared in the 2016 postseason, including 11 opponents that played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.