Going into the season, the Michigan State Spartans had huge expectations weighing in on their shoulders. The pressure is slowly coming off thanks to big man in the middle, Adreian Payne.
Payne has improved his points per game from last season by eight, going from 10 points to 18 points per contest. However, he’s not just an offensive weapon that can attack the basket from the block, he is also a pick and roll monster on both sides. Against the University of New Orleans Privateers, Payne scored 17 and grabbed seven rebounds. In Big Ten Conference play, that simply cannot happen for the Spartans.
Luckily for Payne, he has two guards that are more than willing to put shots and score. Gary Harris and Keith Appling are the guards that can score almost at will on any team. Appling shined against the Privateers, going 7-10 from the floor and accumulating 27 points. However, Harris struggled, going 7-17 from the floor (4-11 from three) and scoring 19 points.
Despite his mediocre performance against the Privateers, big No. 5 in the middle is still the most improved player in a system that stresses improving. Coach Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in the country, and it shows. His coaching on Payne has allowed him to lead the team in scoring per game and second in rebounds. Improving his game has given the Spartans another chance for a special season and hopefully another title for Izzo and Michigan State. Payne has moved his game from a low-post-only player to a pick and roll and pick and pop big man, advancing his game to the three point line.
With only one loss to a very inconsistent University of North Carolina Tar Heels team, it’s clear that Payne and the Spartans mean business. With Payne’s improving on offense, it gives the Spartans three scoring threats on the court every single time down the court.
John Lloyd is a Pac-12 Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JohnHLloydIII.