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Michigan State Basketball: 3 Things Appling Must Improve on in 2012-13

Matt OveringContributor IIIOctober 8, 2016

Michigan State Basketball: 3 Things Appling Must Improve on in 2012-13

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    Sure, Keith Appling might have experienced a sophomore slump in the shooting department for Michigan State last year. However, the rest of his game showed vast improvement and maturity from the 2010-11 season, and much of the same is expected in 2012-13.

    Another increase in his workload is a given with the departure of do-it-all Draymond Green. Appling returns to East Lansing for his third year under Tom Izzo, and he'll have increased responsibility on a team with only one senior. 

    As the incumbent point guard for a team with Final Four aspirations, maturity and improvement will once again be at the forefront of Appling's season. 

    SI.com lists Appling as a "potential difference-maker." ESPN.com pegs him as a "breakout candidate."

    It is safe to say all eyes will be watching Appling's junior season for Michigan State. Here are three areas of his game he can elevate in 2012-13:

Outside Shooting

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    Keith Appling was a strong shooter from three-point range as a freshman. His average of 41.1 percent had Michigan State fans hopeful for an increase in volume with the same consistency in his second season for Tom Izzo.

    Neither turned out to be the case.

    Appling was woeful, shooting a meager 2.6 shots from beyond the arc compared to 2.8 from his freshman campaign—even though he played eight more minutes per game. His shooting percentage of 25 percent was a sharp decline—definitely not what fans were looking for.

    The good news? Appling did well in avoiding outside jumpers. He nearly doubled his shots per game, most coming from inside the arc. His free throw percentage dropped as well, but his willingness to drive to the hoop was evident.

    Appling is the leading returning scorer for Michigan State, and he will take on some of the scoring in the absence of Draymond Green. His shooting percentages may not return to his gaudy freshman numbers, but in 2012-13, look for his percentages to increase.

Versatility

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    Keith Appling was the primary point guard for the 2011-12 Spartans. In 2012-13, he'll play both point guard and shooting guard.

    That may help him focus more on the scoring aspect of his game, but he'll also need to adapt. He turned the ball over 2.3 times per game last season, a number that most Michigan State fans would love to see decrease.

    As the shooting guard, Appling would handle the ball less, and thus, turn the ball over less. He'll still play some point guard, and you can bet Coach Izzo will play around with numerous lineup concoctions with Appling playing both guard positions.

    An increase on his 3.9 assists per game seems unlikely if this change became permanent, but Appling should still hover around that mark. He knows the offense as well as any other player and has experience at the helm.

    Versatility at both guard positions will be vital for Appling next season.

Leadership

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    No more Draymond Green.

    Michigan State needs a leader, and all signs point to Keith Appling stepping into that role next season. 

    Or will he simply fall back and allow that role to be filled by someone else?

    Whatever Appling chooses to do, Michigan State needs him to be a leader. Branden Dawson and Gary Harris may be the next in line, but Appling's time is now. He watched Green blossom into a leader and even facilitated his rise.

    Now, it's his turn.

    He will be the go-to guy in crunch time situations. He can break down the best perimeter defenders in the game—just ask Ryan Evans. This is the Keith Appling we should see in 2012-13: confident, versatile and efficient.

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