After losing Draymond Green, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans needed to find a new star player and a new core.
Because of Green, Michigan state had been able to dominate inside. He excelled at scoring in the post, as well as protecting the rim and rebounding. They still have quality big men like Derrick Nix and Adreian Paine on the team. But, they are not game changers.
However, as the first few games have shown, Michigan State’s strength is now their guards. Junior Kieth Appling, sophomore Branden Dawson and five star true freshman Gary Harris have been plying great.
Harris has proved what all the hype has been about. Offensively, he is versatile and plays like an upperclassman. He has a strong mid range game that is complemented by his ability to get to the rim. He has an NBA ready body, already, using his strength and athleticism to get where he wants on the floor.
Appling is doing what he has shown he is capable for the last couple of years. He was plagued with inconsistency throughout last year, but showed his great playmaking abilities at point guard. We don’t yet know if he will be able to perform consistently at a high level, yet this year. So far, he has led the Spartans with 18 points, and 3.5 assists per game.
Dawson, who was also a five star recruit, in 2011, has been playing just as well. He is doing much more than scoring. Along with 14 points a game he is also averaging 7 boards and 4 steals. He is the Spartan’s do-everything guy, a role that is so valuable.
It has been a very small sample size, so things are not set, ye. But it is also important to remember that these two games have been against Connecticut and Kansas, two very good opponents. Michigan State has a very deep roster of good players. But to be able to make it to that next level, it is necessary to have at least one difference maker. A guy who can decide he is putting the team on his back, and refuses to let them lose a close game. That role had been filled by Green the last couple of years.
Now, this trio of fantastic guards are showing that they might just have three go-to guys on the team. Nix and Payne, along with Denzel Valentine can handle the dirty work, rebounding and defense, Harris, Appling and Dawson showed they can be an elite scoring trio. When you combine that talent with Izzo’s coaching you have good things going on in East Lansing.