Virginia Tech’s schedule is about to get a lot more difficult. The Hokies will face #1 Michigan State (4-0)in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic tonight at 9:30. On Saturday, they will play either Oklahoma or Seton Hall. This will be Tech’s first ever meeting with Michigan State.
Tom Izzo is one of the top basketball coaches in the country. He was Michigan State’s top assistant for 12 years before taking over the program in 1995, and the Spartans have never looked back. They have made 16 straight NCAA Tournaments under Izzo, including a National Championship, a National Championship Game appearance, and they’ve also been to the Final Four four other times.
This year, Izzo has one of his most talented teams ever.
G Keith Appling (6-1, 185, Sr.): Appling is a three-year starter at point guard for Tom Izzo. He is a possible second round pick next June. Appling averages 6.3 assists per game this year, and he’s a quality outside shooter.
G Gary Harris (6-4, 210, So.): Harris is a big guard who was Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season. He can score from inside or outside, and he is a potential lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
F Branden Dawson (6-6, 225, Jr.): Dawson is averaging nine points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He’s a very athletic player – Michigan State’s Deron Washinton would be a good way to describe him. Dawson is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in the season finale of the 2012-13 season. He will likely be charged with shutting down Jarell Eddie.
F Matt Costello (6-9, 240, So.): Costello starts, but he only plays 12 minutes per game.
F Adreian Payne (6-10, 245, Sr.): Payne is averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He is a very skilled player who can step out and make outside jumpers. He is projected as a first round pick in the NBA Draft.
Appling and Harris were both McDonald’s All-Americans coming out of high school, and with three future draftees in the starting lineup, the Spartans represent a tough matchup for anybody. This is a team that beat Kentucky early in the season to claim the #1 spot in the polls.
The Spartans don’t give big minutes to their backups.
G Denzel Valentine (6-5, 225, So.): 22.3 mpg, 7.3 ppg
G Travis Trice (6-0, 170, Jr.): 20 mpg, 6 ppg, 13 assists, 4 TOs
F Alex Guana (6-9, 250, r-Jr.): 9.8 mpg, 2 ppg, 1.8 rpg
F Gavin Schilling (6-9, 240, Fr.): 5.5 mpg, 1 ppg, 1.5 rpg
That’s not a whole lot of depth, but except for Schilling, it is very experienced depth.
With a future NBA backcourt, perhaps the most exciting small forward in the Big Ten, and a very athletic center who will play in the NBA, this is a Michigan State team that can get up and down the court and run. Usually Tom Izzo teams are known for playing halfcourt basketall, but this team can play a fullcourt game with anybody.
The Spartans are averaging 80 points per game, and they have a 2-to-1 assists to turnover ratio. They have forced 55 turnovers in just four games. Virginia Tech’s young backcourt – freshman Devin Wilson, sophomore Adam Smith, and freshman Ben Emelogu – are going to be facing the biggest challenge of their young careers.