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Branden Dawson is key to March.
He's 6'6" and 220 pounds of dunk, block and attitude.
He's Branden Dawson, who broke his right hand—his shooting hand—after watching film of a sub-par performance vs. Indiana. That rash decision to bang his hand on a table symbolizes his career in East Lansing.
Each time he seems to be on the brink of emerging as the true 247Sports 5-star recruit he once was, he gets slammed by a setback. As a freshman, it was an ACL. As a junior, it's his shooting hand and reports of not feeling like himself, per MLive.com's Gillian Van Stratt.
When consistent, he adds a level of athleticism that's lacking at the moment. Michigan State doesn't have the high-flying alley-oop threat it once had. Nor does it have the rebound-and-putback machine that complemented the front court so well, especially in Payne's absence.
Thus far, Matt Costello has provided a bit of help on the glass. He's scoring, but he doesn't pose the same type of threat as Dawson. Part of that is because they play different positions, but at the end of the day, they're both relied upon to clean up the boards and score.
Style is optional. Costello doesn't do it with finesse like Dawson. Nonetheless, he's expected to fill in for Dawson's production, which he does from time to time.
After an 11-point, 12-rebound night in Iowa City, Costello finished with six points, three rebounds and a pair of blocks vs. the Hoyas. He's not 16 and 8 like Payne—not even close—but he could be 10 and 8.
At 6'9" and 250 pounds, nearly identical to Costello, Alex Gauna has to help lead or get out of the way. His two- and four-point offerings are mere grains of sand in an hourglass. Averaging 8.4 minutes per game, he's failed to prove worthy of more time on the floor.
Despite a .625 field-goal percentage, Gauna's shot selection tends to be questionable. He should be able to get the bunnies in the paint, but even those are difficult for the redshirt sophomore.
Izzo needs Dawson back sooner than the anticipated five-week return.
Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal recently revealed a timetable for Dawson's rehab: