The Michigan State Spartans are one of college basketball’s biggest surprises this season.
After losing multiple quality players as well as all expectations of past seasons’ dominance, the Spartans were only projected to finish fifth in the Big Ten.
After dropping two games to start the season, Michigan State has defied the odds and currently sits at No. 6 in the polls with a 15-2 record (4-0 conference).
Clearly, success is owed to head coach Tom Izzo, but just how well have his players stepped it up this year?
The following will examine the Spartans roster and grade each member based on his play this season.
To start, these players have not received significant playing time to have made an impact on Michigan State’s season.
Minutes per Game: 17.9
Field Goal Success: 37.2%
Points per Game: 4.3
Miscellaneous: 89.5% free-throw success
Analysis: Austin Thornton is playing in a Spartan uniform for his fourth year.
This season, Thornton has seen his most time on the court.
Yet he is still not a star on this Michigan State squad.
He has not excelled at any facet of his game on the offensive or defensive side of the ball and a 37.2 percent field-goal percentage is not going to get a player anywhere.
There is a reason this senior has never seen massive amounts of play time.
Final Grade: C
Minutes per Game: 21.0
Field Goal Success: 55.1%
Points per Game: 8.1
Miscellaneous: 4.4 rebounds per game
Analysis: Expected to be an all around athlete with the ability to play above the rim and sink shots, Dawson has not entirely lived up to his potential this season.
Bringing in only 8.1 points per game, Dawson could take more attempts at the basket. He averages only 6.3 per game.
He also shows that he has the ability to be a rebound player; however, a little over four rebounds a game is not going to make a name for this player.
Final Grade: B-
Minutes per Game: 18.8
Field Goal Success: 38.5%
Points per Game: 5.7
Miscellaneous: 43.8% three-point success
Analysis: Travis Trice is the epitome of a player that will only get better with time.
Coming into the season Trice was touted as a player who could bring his high basketball IQ to the court and couple it with a fantastic shooting range.
It looks, though, that he needs some more time to develop his game and bring it to the college level, seeing as how his play has faltered after a successful first couple of weeks.
With more time under his belt Trice should become a very good off-the-bench player and put his skills on the board later this season.
Final Grade: B-
Minutes per Game: 17.7
Field Goal Success: 60.9%
Points per Game: 6.9
Miscellaneous: 4.5 rebounds per game
Analysis: Adreian Payne’s effort on the court was a concern for Michigan State last season and contributed to his limited play time.
This season, bringing in 17.7 minutes per game, Payne has doubled his court time and has shown the potential the Spartans were hoping for.
His field goal success is a promising statistic that should help Payne gain some confidence to take a couple more shots.
Coach Izzo noted how his bench needed to get better and Payne should be able to step up into this role and prove to his coach just how good he can be.
Final Grade: B
Minutes per Game: 18.4
Field Goal Success: 57.4%
Points per Game: 7.8
Miscellaneous: 4.3 rebounds per game
Analysis: Derrick Nix seems to be the leader of the bench players when it comes to overall ability and experience.
He does not necessarily lead the team in shooting or points per game by any means; however, he is a reliable team member when the starters need a break.
Seeing as how he was never expected to become an explosive player, Nix is certainly living up to his reputation as a big man who can step up when he has to, as is evidence by his recent play.
Final Grade: B
Minutes per Game: 26.2
Field Goal Success: 50%
Points per Game: 10.1
Miscellaneous: 36.8% three-point success
Analysis: Brandon Wood has been a valuable addition to the 2011 Michigan State squad after transferring from Valparaiso.
The promising aspect of this young man is the maturity that he brings to the depth chart, providing a mentor to the youth-heavy Spartans.
Through his quality playing time, Wood has been able to make an impact with his game this season.
It should be noted, however, his stats have fallen off since his play for Valparaiso.
Final Grade: B+
Minutes per Game: 28.6
Field Goal Success: 46.3%
Points per Game: 12.6
Miscellaneous: 3.9 assists per game
Analysis: Keith Appling should be very happy with himself right now.
His coach has publicly praised him, he is the second-leading scorer for the Spartans and he is the leader in assists.
Appling is one of the three key pieces of this Michigan State squad and without him it would not be nearly as successful as it has been.
State fans should be happy to have this man on the team, as he will lead them to more victories in coming games.
Final Grade: A
Minutes per Game: 32.4
Field Goal Success: 42.9%
Points per Game: 15.9
Miscellaneous: 9.8 rebounds per game
Analysis: Any fan of basketball would die to have a player like Draymond Green on his team.
An all around fantastic person, fourth-year player, leading scorer and averaging almost a double-double is not something that any coach would turn down or any player would refuse to play with.
In a recent interview, Coach Izzo stated that Green is the best leader that he has had play for him since Mateen Cleaves.
Hands down, Green is the best player on this team and one of the best in the country.
Final Grade: A+