Michigan State Basketball: How Spartans Match Up with Every B1G Team Right Now
Derrick Nix is the Michigan State Spartans' only heavy loss.
His presence in the paint will be missed, but thanks to the return of Adreian Payne, the Spartans will have muscle and finesse under the basket to alleviate pressure and compensate for Nix's departure.
Gary Harris decided not to enter the 2013 NBA draft. The will-be sophomore was projected to be a lottery pick by ESPN's Chad Ford. Spartans coach Tom Izzo can now rest assured that his team will have a steady scorer in 2013-14 in Harris, who will likely declare for the 2014 draft.
Brandon Dawson will be around for at least another season, and forwards like Matt Costello and Alex Gauna took a few steps in the right direction in 2012-13.
Not every team in the Big Ten can report such positive news, though.
In this slideshow, we'll examine how the Spartans stack up against the rest of their conference foes.
Tom Izzo vs. the Rest of Big Ten Coaching
With coaches like Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, Ohio State's Thad Matta, Indiana's Tom Crean and Michigan's John Beilein, it's either or in the Big Ten for Tom Izzo.
Either he beats them, or he loses to them.
Pretty cut and dried.
Izzo, though, seems to be from a different breed than most of his contemporaries. He's been to more Final Fours than you can count on one hand and lays claim to the Big Ten's most recent national title (2000).
Michigan, 2013 national runner-up, is on the rise with Beilein calling the shots. Indiana, led by Crean, an Izzo disciple, is another power in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin is always tricky with Ryan pacing the sideline, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers showed a glimmer of hope in 2012-13—they're in the beginning stages of the Richard Pitino era after Tubby Smith's dismissal.
Pitino's father is none other than Rick Pitino, a legendary coach who won the 2013 national championship with Louisville.
Coaching is a strength of the Big Ten. Izzo may be at the top in terms of recognition and resume, but he'll be challenged by his colleagues this season.
All-American Power Bodes Well for Spartans
Adriean Payne could have a monster senior season.
Gary Harris may end up as the league's scoring leader.
And both are gaining national attention.
Michigan State has a pair of preseason All-Americans that will be the driving force behind a strong tournament run. Tom Izzo's program is the only one in the Big Ten that has more than one mention on early list (Mitch McGary, Michigan; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Yogi Ferrell, Indiana).
Now that Trey Burke has left Michigan and Victor Oladipo is no longer at Indiana, Harris and Payne could be favorites to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Payne certainly has the potential—another mile-long jump in progress and he'll be a national player of the year candidate.
Harris was Michigan State's second-leading scorer, averaging just over 13 points per game. He had a hot hand more than a few times this past year, demonstrating an ability to hammer away three-pointers and create opportunities off the drive.
Newcomers Are Scarce for Michigan State
Michigan State hoped for the best, but didn't get a desirable outcome when Jabari Parker opted for Duke over Izzo and East Lansing.
Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis, both 3-star rated players, are the Spartans' only incoming scholarship freshmen. Schilling is an athletic forward with a splash of Goran Suton in his game. Ellis once committed to Minnesota, but recently signed with Michigan State—he's a 6'5", 185-pound small forward/shooting guard that could immediately impact the Spartans' offense.
There is a possibility that Izzo could add one more player to the 2013 class—he has one scholarship available, according to VerbalCommits.com.
Unless Andrew Wiggins changes his mind, the chances of Izzo's class of getting much attention this year are slim. Other Big Ten teams loaded up on talent, and players like Zak Irvin highlight solid groups of recruits.
Irvin is a 4-star rated guard who played with Michigan State's Gary Harris at Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.). Like Harris, Irvin won Indiana's Mr. Basketball award as a senior. Unlike Harris, he chose maize and blue over green and white.
The Wolverines already return a solid core; their stock that includes 4-star guard Derrick Walton should complement the Spike Albrecht's backcourt in Ann Arbor.
Michigan has the No. 11 overall haul of 2013, according to 247Sports.com's composite rankings.
Indiana, the No. 7 ranked team on the list, locked up Noah Vonleh, a 5-star rated, 6'9", 229-pound power forward that is one of the most widely discussed prep players of this year. The Hoosiers filled their shelves with an accompanying cast of 3- and 4-star rated shooting guards and forwards.
Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois are also ranked in 247Sports' top 35. Michigan State is No. 35 and will have to rely upon the experience of Keith Appling and Adreian Payne before the newcomers can get acclimated.
Branden Dawson Is Still One of Big Ten's X-Factor Players
He still has something to prove, but Branden Dawson is one of the most skilled athletes in the Big Ten.
Although he regressed as a sophomore recovering from an ACL surgery, he was still recovering—he'll get the benefit of the doubt for now.
There were times when Dawson exploded like the 5-star scoring machine that he was in high school. He scored 15 or more points four times in 2012-13, but averaged just 8.9 per game. He'll need to be more consistent with the double-digit nights if Michigan State wants to have a well-rounded offensive attack.
Michigan has a trio of consistent offensive weapons in Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III—they're all game-changers.
Indiana's Yogi Ferrell also has the X-factor quality. He averaged 7.6 points per game as a freshman in 2012. His hot-handedness could be the difference in a back-and-forth affair.
Dawson's ability to get to the rim is second to none—when that ability is at 100 percent. At 6'6" and 220 pounds, he's built for destroying defenders in the paint with dunks. Once he develops a jump shot, he'll be incredibly hard to defend.
A will-be junior, Dawson still has to prove that he can be counted on during crucial situations. Each of the aforementioned showcased that ability this past season. A true X-factor player does that.
Michigan State Considered Big Ten's Best in Preseason Poll
In April, CBS Sports released a preseason top 25—Michigan State was ranked No. 2, right behind the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (who also have an insanely talented 2013 class).
The power of the preseason ranking means nothing come December and January. However, past Tom Izzo-led teams with lofty expectations fulfilled them. More often than not, the Spartans deliver in the form of a sturdy tournament run after being picked as a team to beat.
Michigan is No. 5 on the CBS poll, Ohio State is No. 9 and Wisconsin is No. 13. Expect another classic Big Ten battleground to take stage in 2013-14. The 2012-13 Big Ten was as strong as it's ever been.
With talent flooding into the league through great recruiting from top programs like Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State, the 2013-14 version could be better.
The Big Ten's title drought has been well-publicized in years past. Izzo has the chance to snap that streak—the streak he started—and get his second piece of national championship hardware since 2000.
College fans could easily see a Final Four with a pair of Big Ten participants.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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