Michigan State Basketball: 5 Reasons Spartans Could Be a No. 1 Seed Come March

Jim Sullivan@jsully711Featured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2012

Michigan State Basketball: 5 Reasons Spartans Could Be a No. 1 Seed Come March

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    Spartan basketball is a national brand known for its resilience, poise and power. While their in-state rivals may be the football powerhouse, Michigan State has the claim for best on the hardwood.

    They rank up there with Duke, UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky, owning the Big Ten since the Hoosiers fell from the top. They sit at an impressive 15-4 this season, with three of their losses coming from ranked squads.

    Starting out the year with two straight losses, MSU regained their composure and won 15 consecutive victories. As of their last two games, they seem to have lost focus.

    However, stealing a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance is still much within the realm of possibility for the Spartans, as they have all the tools to secure another Big Ten Title. This is a team to keep you eye on.

    As Michigan State continues to wade through their conference schedule, we take a look at five reasons why they will emerge as one of the four top teams in the country this year.

Ideal Conference Schedule

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    Don't get me wrong here, the Big Ten is one of the toughest basketball conferences around—they have five teams in the Top 25 at the moment, with two in the Top Ten. However, the Spartans were fortunate enough to receive "breaks" in between their tougher stretches in the season.

    For example, MSU's toughest stretch this year is at Illinois, Michigan and Penn State at home, and then at Ohio State. Between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes, you will notice that the Spartans face a very weak Nittany Lion squad which provides them a chance to gather their wits for a tough visit to Columbus.

    Overall, Izzo has to be pleased about the schedule his team received as they move further into conference play. 

Keith Appling

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    This sophomore guard comes in as Michigan State's second leading scorer. A very young, yet powerful force on the hardwood, Appling can run Izzo's offense extremely effectively considering his age.

    An up-and-comer in the Big Ten after a superb freshman season, many conference coaches have to game plan around his talents—not only as a jump-shooter, but also as a threat to drive and grab an easy lay-up.

    Averaging just under 13 points and around four assists per game, Appling is a player to keep your eye on in the Big Ten. Watch for him to make an impact down the stretch for MSU. 

Ability to Bounce Back

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    The Spartans are what we in the college basketball community like to call two-faced. For those of you who don't know what that is, basically it is when a team plays at their tempo during some matchups and at the opponent's tempo during others.

    MSU has played scared during three games this year. Their early losses against Duke and UNC both occurred because the Spartans lost focus of themselves as a unit and became solely set on understanding the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels.  

    Fortunately for MSU, however, Tom Izzo is an experienced coach with a lot of time coaching many different types of squads. He helped them bounce back to one of the most impressive 15 game win streaks I've ever seen, with huge victories over Gonzaga, Indiana and Wisconsin.

    As Michigan State has fallen in their last two games, it's time again for them to make a late surge for a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. 

Draymond Green

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    As the Spartans' leading scorer this season, this man has performed bestially. A born leader and in one of the best positions of his young career, this senior forward out of Saginaw, Michigan is the pulse of the green and white. 

    Playing down low as a forward, Green is powerful yet has honed a lot of quickness. He can beat opposing players off the dribble and knows how to stick a jumper when necessary.

    Putting up almost 16 points and averaging 10 rebounds a game, he is seemingly unstoppable. Izzo and company are fortunate this experienced monster is fighting for them this season, as he will either make or break whether his team ends up a top seed.

Tom Izzo

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    A native of the state he works in, Izzo is one of the most recognizable coaches in the business. His 17 years at Michigan State have proven to be more than successful as he has produced one national title along with six Big Ten ones to go with it.

    He is the program's all-time winningest coach and is the reason they threaten every season to be the best in the conference. His experience along with his brilliant basketball mind has transformed what would be a decent program into a powerhouse matched only by old-timers of the sport.

    This year is no different as he is primed to lead his team to another No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. If anything gives the Spartans an advantage over most other Big Ten teams, it is Tom Izzo.