Michigan State Basketball: Spartans' Best Situational Lineups in 2013-14

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIDecember 8, 2013

Michigan State Basketball: Spartans' Best Situational Lineups in 2013-14

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    Tom Izzo's love for football extends to the basketball court, and that's been seen for years through his Michigan State Spartans. 

    Izzo loves physical ball, but he's not afraid to run an uptempo spread to keep pace with NCAA powers such as Kansas, Duke and Kentucky. 

    More often than not, Izzo's tactics work wonders. But Dec. 4 vs. North Carolina was a different story. Then ranked No. 1, the Spartans lost 79-65 on their home court, an extremely rare occurrence, to the unranked Tar Heels, who are 7-0 vs. Izzo under coach Roy Williams. 

    After the loss, Izzo sounded off, saying his team's effort "looked soft," according to WTVB-East Lansing. 

    He tried to run with Nate Britt but couldn't. He tried to out-muscle Kennedy Meeks but couldn't. Matter of fact, Izzo, whose team was out-rebounded 33-25, was at his wit's end when it came to stopping the dynamic Tar Heels. 

    Switching up the five on the floor to suit situations is done by every coach. Izzo typically excels at that discipline. This slideshow will highlight the Spartans' big, small, medium, fast and shooter-filled lineups, along with other hybrids of the five-man shuffle. 

Just Showing Off: Best 5 on the Floor

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    The consensus pecking order is debatable, but the five players who make up the top handful of Spartans isn't up for discussion—it's Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Denzel Valentine. 

    Suffering from flu-like symptoms on Dec. 4, Matt Costello impressed with a gutsy go against the Tar Heels. He had four blocks and supplied energy to a lineup that appeared to be under the weather. The sophomore center certainly deserves consideration as one of Izzo's top five. 

    Those five plus Costello will be the bread and butter for Michigan State, which desperately needs to replace the strength position in the paint vacated by Derrick Nix, a husky defender who had a classic left hand and chip on his shoulder. 

    Costello has to further develop in order to be viewed as a viable big man. He's strong enough, but offensively, he lacks consistency and isn't the most athletic. Creating shots isn't his specialty. Cleaning the glass and throwing down in the lane is more his style. 


    These five players account for more than 66 of Michigan State's 83 points per game. 

War Drill Veterans: Strength, Rebounds

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    Izzo's famous War Drill exercise has been a staple of Spartans basketball since the mid-1990s. 

    When Izzo wants an extra push in the bruiser department, he'll typically employ players who excel at his football-inspired pad-shellacking. 

    Those guys, of course, are the ones who can create shots after contact and hold their position in the lane. 

    That lineup is as follows: 

    C/FMatt Costello
    FAdreian Payne
    FGavin Schilling
    GBranden Dawson
    GKeith Appling

    With this lineup, Izzo gets speed, assists and points from Appling, who does an excellent job of drawing contact and getting to the line. At just 6'1" and 190 pounds, Appling often takes larger defenders to task. His Detroit Public Schools pedigree affords the blue-collar toughness that Izzo loves. 

    Appling can be pretty on the floor. But he can also be dirty, grimy and nasty. 

    Teams have to pick which one they get. His versatility is a glowing asset for Michigan State. 

    Size comes with Dawson, Costello and Payne; so does rebounding. Those three are capable of raking in 30 to 40 boards per game on a good night. But a solid 22 to 25 wouldn't hurt, either. 

    Schilling makes this lineup because of his size. He's made freshman mistakes on defense, but he appears to be on the upswing, unlike redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, who was schooled by the Tar Heels. 

All Shooters on Deck: Perimeter Threats, Quick Points

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    The loss to the Tar Heels highlighted a deficiency in the Spartans offense, and that's lack of consistency from the perimeter. 

    It should, however, be a strength. Harris is a hot-shot from 3-point land. Appling can drain them. Kaminski has range, and if Russell Byrd ever gets...

    Never mind. Forget that. Byrd's ship has all but sailed, unfortunately. 

    Alvin Ellis, a freshman, shot better than 40 percent from long range during his senior year. But he's taken just two shots from beyond the arc this year (1-for-2). The jury is out on Ellis, who's averaging six minutes per night.

    The following lineup highlights Izzo's best shooters, which he may or may not have on the floor all at once. But it doesn't hurt to entertain the idea. Izzo has gone with specialty lineups, but it's unlikely that he'd leave such a one-dimensional group on the floor for extended periods of time. 

    No. 1Gary Harris
    No. 2Travis Trice
    No. 3Keith Appling
    No. 4Denzel Valentine
    No. 5Kenny Kaminski

    Harris has been nagged by an ankle injury this season. Although he's played well thus far, he's yet to reach his true level of consistency. He's had extreme cold spells from the field and from beyond the arc. 

    This lineup obviously lacks size for rebounding. But what good are shooters if they miss a lot? Harris can rebound. So can Appling, Trice and Valentine. Kaminski can get hot from long range, but he must improve the physical aspect of his game. 

    Quick points, trips to the line and perimeter presence would be provided by this group. 

Clean-Up Crew: Those Final Few Minutes

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    This "lineup" is for entertainment only. Other than during the waning minutes of a catastrophic blowout, Spartans followers probably won't see this particular assembly of talent. 

    But in the event it does take the floor, you can point to this slideshow and say, "Hey, it really happened." 

    HTB is a new position. It means "hold the ball." And while we're at it, let's create a new one for Byrd: STDB. That one is self-explanatory. 

    HTBKeenan Wetzel
    HTBColby Wollenman
    HTB Trevor Bonhoff
    STDBRussell Byrd
    SGAlvin Ellis

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81