Monday, January 07, 2008

Izzo's Spartans the Team to Beat in Big 10

There's little doubt that Michigan State coach Tommy Izzo is one of the best coaches in the NCAA, as a recruiter, game coach and getting players ready through rigorous practices.

This season, Izzo seems to have put together an elite, Top 10 team, making Michigan State the one to beat in the rugged Big 10 conference.

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Entering Saturday night's conference opener against a solid Minnesota team, the Spartans were 12-1 and ranked 6th nationally. By the time the game was over, Michigan had added another win, buttressing their spot near the top of the national heap with an All-American performance from sophomore forward Raymar Morgan.

The 6'8" Morgan wore out the visiting Golden Gophers on both ends of the floor, scoring 31 points on 11-17 shooting while snatching 10 rebounds in Michigan State's 65-59 win. The points were a career high for Morgan, who ranks third in Big 10 scoring behind Indiana's Eric Gordon (23.5) and Penn State's Geary Claxton (18.6) at 18.4 per game. He's also tied for 7th in the conference 7.3 rebounds per outing and has registered three double-doubles this season.

Teamed with the playmaking, scoring and leadership abilities of senior Drew Neitzel and the inside presence of 6'10" junior Goran Suton, Izzo is looking forward to a Big 10 title and possible Final Four appearance later this year.

Michigan State's only setback this season was a tough 68-63 loss, November 20 at UCLA. Since then, the Spartans have knocked off three ranked opponents - BYU, Texas and NC State.

Looking ahead, key games include a Feb. 16 contest at Indiana, then two consecutive tough outings, Feb. 28 at Wisconsin and March 2, at home with the Hoosiers.

As Morgan continues to impress and improve and Izzo keeps pushing the fundamentals to his troops, the Spartans look to be the kind of team nobody will want to play come tourney time.

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