Final thoughts from Atlanta: MSU’s playing rotation could get complicated

ATLANTA — So, a team that looked like it couldn’t play without Travis Trice last Friday, looked much more settled without him Tuesday.

And though finally healthy, Matt Costello didn’t see the court again against Kansas, and the freshman big man’s primary competition for playing time, Alex Gauna, played as well as he ever has.

After MSU’s 67-64 win over Kansas Tuesday night, coach Tom Izzo blamed himself and circumstance for not having a consistent rotation. The substitution pattern seemed to work fine.

The question is, when at full strength, what will MSU’s rotation become? Who’s in? Who’s out? Who’s role is diminished? Who emerges?

It’s safe to say Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Derrick Nix, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Trice are going to play major minutes this season.

Harris, if he stays healthy, is probably going to lead this team in scoring. He has superb body control around the rim and, Tuesday, four quick points when MSU trailed by five with 5 minutes left showed he’s a closer, recognizing the moment.

He was overshadowed by Appling’s sensational final two minutes (that scoop lefty layup by Appling looks better every time I see it).

Valentine was nearly as important. He sees the floor better than anyone on this team, even Trice, and MSU doesn’t beat Kansas without him.

Trice will continue to be the backup point guard, I believe, with Valentine getting the bulk of his minutes on the wing.

That top seven, as I figure it, on average is going to take at least 170 of the 200 minutes available per game. That’s 30 minutes, at most, to split between Gauna, Brandan Kearney, Russell Byrd and Costello.

Would a redshirt for Costello make sense? Probably not. By all accounts, he’s ready to contribute. But it doesn’t make sense to use him if he doesn’t have a consistently meaningful role.

Byrd is going to have to start hitting outside shots to keep his minutes. That’s his value. That’s what potentially separates him from others.

Gauna deserves a role if he keeps playing as he did Tuesday.

This team is going to get interesting.

It already is.

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12 Responses to Final thoughts from Atlanta: MSU’s playing rotation could get complicated

  1. avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

    I’ll try to get the ball rolling today. Was very encouraged by last night. Team still has some shortcomings but the play of the guards has been good.

    Dawson is a strong talent and if he develops a jump shot will be lethal.

    Harris made a few freshman errors but is smooth and fluid. Nothing looks forced or like he is playing on the edge of his ability. He demonstrated last night why he was a top 10 recruit. The 3′s weren’t dropping but that will come.

    If Appling has regained his high school scoring form this team will have multiple scoring options.

    Trice will get his 15-20 minutes as a solid backup complement to Appling.

    The bigs are the key to the season. Nix is what he is, a big strong guy with some agility but limited athleticism. He will provide a solid but not spectacular performance. Payne has tremendous athletic ability but he always seems a split second late in his actions-reactions. Overthinking instead of playing by instinct perhaps? Guana is destined to be a limited minute role player. Costello? Verdict is out, no playing time as yet. Probably limited minutes in relief of Nix and Payne. If he shows consistent offense and defends like Harris he could cement the Nix-Payne Siamese twin center situation again. Byrd headed for Dahlmanville.

    Valentine, as billed, is the best passer since at least Mateen. In style reminded me a lot of Magic’s passing. Could become the first tall point guard since Magic in a year or 2. Improved shooting will complete that package. Agree most of his minutes will be backing up Dawson and perhaps Payne if they go small.

    Kearney is a decent player but hard to see where he fits other than spot duty like last night. Good defender, offense who knows, never played enough to show.

    Defense, hallmark of an Izzo team, will be a strength. Overplaying and occasional poor positioning led to a few easy baskets last night. I expect those to diminish as the season progresses. Overall hustle and effort was there. This team has definite weaknesses but more strengths and great potential.

    • avatar USMCret says:

      Ghost of Biggy

      I am a Razorback fan now, we all need to get behind that John L Smith


    • avatar Spartan in Los Angeles says:

      Have faith in this young team, there is a lot of growth that will occur in the next few weeks.
      Valentine, will have the same passing skills as Deron Williams by the time he leave MSU.
      Have worked out with both and that is what his skill set is similar to.

      • avatar NJ Rob says:

        I agree re: Valentine. Wasn’t thinking Magic, but was definitely starting to think Deron Williams….had same thought.

        Don’t forget too…unfortunately, injuries always surface and change the rotation.

        Can’t wait for B1G season to start…going to be some really good games. Winner of league this year should get two trophies.

      • avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

        I’ll take your word for it. You know more about it than I do.

  2. avatar Thatchman says:

    Great game by Appling and Harris. Looks like the team has “all around”(Can play offense and defense) players in the the rotation(Dawson,Nix,Payne,Appling,Harris,Valentine Trice). Very impressed by the eyeball test with Valentine. He makes plays!! Now the other players must find something to specialize in and be positive contributors.

  3. avatar Drew says:

    Was only able to watch Kansas game from a distance while at a business dinner and unfortunately I accidentally DVR’d the stupid Duke UK game. Was great to see Appling take and hit a three with confidence. Is Byrd getting any shots of pick a la Neitzel?

  4. avatar MSUDersh says:

    I’m not here to drive traffic away, but please check out my fight preview for Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell’s big bout this Saturday! It’s over at the other best MSU athletics blog, The Only Colors!! http://www.theonlycolors.com/2012/11/15/3647646/lets-get-ready-to-rumble

  5. avatar MSUDersh says:

    Ghost of Biggie – Great review above. I’m optimistic about this team, I think we’ll miss Draymond, AT & even Wood (he was much better defensively than given credit for, and was a legit shooting threat – kind of like a Chris Allen to me) and I think there will be further growing pains.

    But this group is full of guys who seem to be hungry. Dawson is clearly not just an athletic freak, but a dedicated hard worker to get back as far as he has in such a short amount of time. Harris seems very vocal for a true freshman, and looks like a natural leader to me. Denzel & Trice have a lot of swagger to them that you need from primary ball handlers, and Appling has ice water in his veins, we’ve seen in the past two seasons and again on Tuesday.

    I agree the bigs will need to come along. Personally, I prefer last season’s “Paynix” model, in which those two split the 40 minutes at the 5, and maybe overlapped for 6-8 minutes per game with one at the 4. If they can do that, hopefully Gauna (who looked much better Tuesday than in Germany), Costello, and even Byrd & Dawson can pick up the remaining 32-34 MPG at the 4.

    With Appling, Harris & Dawson as the first line, and Trice, Denzel & Kearney as the second line, I love our 1-3. The starters have got to be among the top two perimeter rotations in the B1G with Indiana (I think they’re better than OSU’s perimeter starters), and I can’t imagine anyone in the B1G has as good a second line to run out at the 1-3 spots.

    Lastly, we have the best intangible on the bench, the guiding force for the past 17 seasons of unprecedented success on the hardwood – Izzo. I really like this team a lot right now and think they can make some noise nationally this year.

  6. avatar dmbtierney says:

    Everyone will get a lot of playing time in the next five weeks with a lot of games against mid-major teams. By the Texas game, at the end of December, our rotation will be pretty well set. Of course, injuries could change everything.

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