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College Basketball Preseason Top 25: #5 Michigan St
- Updated: September 29, 2013
5. Michigan State Spartans
There is no better indicator of the current state of college basketball than the fact that Michigan State is thought of as a preseason favorite. Sure, the Spartans have talent, but if you look up and down the roster, there aren’t many stars who jump out at you. There are no McDonald’s All-Americans or one-and-done guys, players that NBA scouts and the general college basketball fan has spent months drooling over. Instead, the Spartans will take the court with an experienced group led by one of the legendary coaches in the game. Michigan State always plays defense, and this group should be as stingy as last year’s, which ranked 22nd in the nation in field goal percentage defense last season.
The frontcourt looks stacked, with big man Adreian Payne (10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg) returning for his junior season and Derrick Nix (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) back as a senior. Payne is powerful and athletic down low, and has improved greatly in each of his two years. He looks to take the next step this season and has all-Big Ten potential. Nix is a wide load at 6-9, 270 pounds and compliments Payne well in the paint. The duo, along with hard-nosed forward Branden Dawson (8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) should help the Spartans continue to dominate on the glass.
Also back is point guard Keith Appling, who averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 boards and 3.3 assists per game last season. He is an extension of Izzo on the floor should be one of the nation’s best floor generals coming back this year.
BOTTOM LINE: Michigan State returns one of the nation’s most experienced teams and, of course, is led by Tom Izzo. That’s enough to rank them in the Top 5. Some preseason prognosticators think the Spartans will cut down the nets at the end of the year, but we just don’t see that happening with the lack of star power on this team. Still, with Appling, Payne, Nix and Dawson back in place and a group of freshmen leading the nation’s other top teams, there’s no reason to think the Spartans can’t get back to the Final Four.