After an impressive 16-1 start to the 2013-14 season, the Michigan State Spartans find themselves sitting atop the Big Ten conference and ranked amidst the Top 5 nationally.
But it hasn't come without its share of frustrations and road blocks.
On the positive end of the spectrum, the trio of touted Spartans, Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, has produced the way Tom Izzo had hoped. All three players are averaging more than 16 points per game, but most importantly, have performed on the biggest stages.
More of a surprise, however, has been the emergence of sharpshooter Kenny Kaminski. Kaminski is shooting a whopping 13 of 19 from three in the last six games.
Collectively, the Spartans have displayed their ability to win different types of games, something indicative of a championship team. When it is clicking, Michigan State is tough to stop. Its assortment of scoring, rebounding, ability to share the ball and defensive intensity will make it a tough out in March.
However, it hasn't all been smooth sailing for the veteran Spartans. The team has been decimated by nagging injuries, including an ongoing foot problem for the All-Big Ten forward Payne, which has forced the team to win grind-it-out games in the absence of its versatile senior.
Compounding the injury issues, high-flying junior forward Branden Dawson has looked incredibly inconsistent and disconnected from the game. His sporadic play is a source of concern for Izzo and the Spartans.
Yet through the roller coaster of injuries, uncertainties, pleasant surprises and nail-biting games, Michigan State couldn't be happier with its current standing.
Let's reflect on each significant player's cumulative performance through the season's first 17 games.