Michigan State Basketball

Michigan State Basketball: 5 Takeaways from Start of Spartans' Practices

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIOctober 14, 2013

Michigan State Basketball: 5 Takeaways from Start of Spartans' Practices

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    Spartans coach Tom Izzo has been to six Final Fours.
    Spartans coach Tom Izzo has been to six Final Fours.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Michigan State began tuning up for 2013-14 with fall practices on Sept. 27. 

    Since then, the Spartans have well...they've done what their coach Tom Izzo is famous for, and that's work. 

    Lofty goals are in sight for Michigan State, which is among favorites to win the national championship this season.

    Winning the Big Ten is expected, and so is winning it all. With Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson highlighting an otherwise sturdy roster, the Spartans will certainly be a juggernaut come March and April. 

    For now, let's concentrate on the present instead of the future. Michigan State is two weeks into its practice schedule, and there are plenty of story lines to cover until Oct. 29's tip-off against Grand Valley State (exhibition). 

Gary Is a Go

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    Gary Harris injured his left shoulder in 2012-13. He's since recovered.
    Gary Harris injured his left shoulder in 2012-13. He's since recovered.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Although at about 75 percent of full health, sophomore shooting guard Gary Harris is ready for the season. 

    The sharpshooter out of Fishers, Ind. injured his right ankle during workouts in late August and was expected to miss at least four to eight weeks because of it. 

    However, according to a recent reports, Harris is ahead of schedule.

    "If there were a game right now, I would play," Harris said after practice on Oct. 5 (via ESPN's Jeff Goodman). "I'm probably about 75 percent."

    "In another week, I'll be full-go."

    Izzo said the following about Harris' road to recovery during an interview with SpartanMag.com's Jim Comparoni (subscription required):

    He is way ahead of where we thought he would be the day he did it but we are not going to take any chances. He is gradually coming back. They are hoping he'll be able to do more than a few things for the first practice. 

    At times, they say he can do a lot. If it was in the middle of the season, would he play? Probably.

    But I'm a little skeptical and protective on exactly what we're going to do. So we are definitely going to err on the side of caution.

    That settles it. Oct. 12, "another week" from Oct. 5, has passed. Izzo approves. Harris should feel much better than he did on the day that he talked to Goodman. 

    That's great news for the Spartans, who will need Harris' 12.9 points per game—an average that could be closer to 15—this season. 

    Expecting Harris to be at full-tilt Oct. 29 is a stretch. For starters, consider the competition; he won't be needed much against Grand Valley State. In reality, being 100 percent for Nov. 12's clash with Kentucky in Chicago is probably the end goal. 

    Michigan State will require Harris' services as it contends with John Calipari's Wildcats. 

More Gary

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    There should be much more of Gary Harris this season.
    There should be much more of Gary Harris this season.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    OK, so the rules are being bent a little on this one. Instead of focusing on today, this slide will further examine the possible future contributions given by Gary Harris. 

    Let's start by saying this: He's going to be a bigger part of the offense. And that doesn't necessarily mean more points, either. It means more action from all corners of the court—offensively, defensively and in transition. 

    You name it, Harris will handle it. 

    That's a major takeaway from practice season. It gives Spartans fans something more to look forward to as the opener draws closer. 

    Izzo stated the following about Harris' new role in Michigan State's press guide (via MLive.com's Diamond Leung). 

    We're going to use him in 100 different ways. He'll have the ball in his hands more, more pick-and-rolls for him, more pick-and-pops. He's also really improved his ability to shoot off the dribble and pull up on a dime.

    Moving past the basketball jargon, what Izzo really means is this: Harris will have the ball. 

    A. Lot. 

    That should help Harris reach Big Ten Player of the Year status and perhaps push him toward national player contention. 

Dawson Is Menacing

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    Branden Dawson has pogo-legs.
    Branden Dawson has pogo-legs.Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    New NCAA rules will benefit basketball teams during the offseason. 

    As of now, college programs are allowed up to 30 practice sessions during a six-week period prior to the start of the season. 

    That extra time should pay dividends for Branden Dawson, a junior with a sky-high ceiling. 

    Why is that? 

    Well, the 6'6", 220-pounder has had more time to perfect his craft: The art of bending iron. 

    The following footage was posted on Twitter by SpartanMag.com's Paul Konynkdyk. 

    Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson throw down some dunks at the end of first practice: http://t.co/VfZimDQI8B via @youtube

    — Paul Konyndyk (@Pkonyndyk) September 28, 2013

Start of Practice Signifies Tail End of Izzo Era

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    Izzo and Huggy Bear.
    Izzo and Huggy Bear.Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Izzo can't coach basketball forever. 

    As a matter of fact, football is his favorite sport, as he's constantly reminded media members over the years. Maybe he'll try his hand on the gridiron one of these days. 

    He'd be a perfect fit. 

    That being said, the start of 2013-14 practice is a reminder that the Izzo era of Spartans basketball is nearing its end. He probably won't retire after this year, or even after a few more, but Izzo, who enters his 19th year as head coach, is certainly getting up there. 

    The legendary coach may decide to try new things. He may even choose to live a life that doesn't involve sports, although that's extremely unlikely. 

    Take the time to appreciate what Mr. March has done for Michigan State as a university, and what he's done for the basketball program. 

    Six Final Fours. Two title appearances. One national championship. 

    He's done more with less.

Spartans Greats Like the Pressure

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    Magic likes what he sees in MSU.
    Magic likes what he sees in MSU.Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Entering the year ranked No. 1 by pundits is an honor. 

    It doesn't guarantee success, but it must be a comfortable feeling for the Spartans, who last appeared in the Final Four in 2010. 

    This year's team has enough talent to do serious damage. That much is clear. 

    In fact, past greats have sung the praises of Michigan State. That makes for a cozy fall practice session, doesn't it? 

    Magic Johnson, leader of the 1979 title team, said the following about this year's Spartans (via MLive.com's Diamond Leung). 

    They're going to be outstanding. I am so excited. I think that it's going to be a great season. When you think about (Gary) Harris, when you think about (Keith) Appling, and you think about (Adreian) Payne, all the guys, but then you think about Coach Izzo coaching these guys.

    This team is going to be very good. I think if they can just stay healthy, we could make a run at the Final Four. I really believe that.

    In the same piece from Leung, Mateen Cleaves was quoted as saying Michigan State would have "an epic" year. That's major consideration from the program's second-greatest player. 

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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