Advertisement

Getting to know: Michigan State

Advertisement

Michigan State guards Miles Bridges, second from left, Alvin Ellis III and Lourawls Nairn Jr. are escorted to interviews on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Michigan State guards Miles Bridges, second from left, Alvin Ellis III and Lourawls Nairn Jr. are escorted to interviews on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

It’s not the typical Michigan State team that Tom Izzo has coached into the NCAA Tournament, featuring one of the youngest teams in the country that’s suffered a few injuries.

But the main philosophies remain the same heading into Sunday's second-round matchup against No. 1 seed Kansas (4:15 p.m., CBS). The Spartans (20-14) have out-rebounded their last 11 opponents and, like always, there’s some talented big men and reliable guards.

“One thing about youth, you win a game and there is an excitement, there’s an enthusiasm,” Izzo said. “There’s a new feeling. And that’s helped me even — you know, when you win a decent amount of games in this tournament like we have over the years, it’s just, I won’t say it’s ho-hum, but it gets to be.

“There was nothing ho-hum about yesterday for me or for them, and that’ll, I hope, propel us into playing well (Sunday) against a good team.”


The Spartans, who own a 13-1 record in the second round of the tournament under Izzo, are without seniors Eron Harris, Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling after all of them sustained knee injuries.

Interesting note: Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State owns a 21-4 record in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend, including a 7-3 mark as the lower seeded team.

Series history: Michigan State leads 7-5. The Spartans have won three of the last four meetings, last coming in November 2015 at the Champions Classic.

Vegas says: Kansas by 8.

MICHIGAN STATE STARTERS

No. 11 — G Tum Tum Nairn Jr. | 5-10, 175, jr.

Michigan State guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • One of the fastest guards in the Big Ten, Nairn was scoreless in 18 minutes against Miami. He dished five assists with two turnovers and shot 0-for-2 from the floor.

  • Throughout the season, Nairn is averaging 3.6 points and 3.7 assists per game. He ranked second in the Big Ten with a 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • He’s played in seven NCAA Tournament games, including starting five during Michigan State’s run to the Final Four in 2015. He leads all MSU players with 63 career starts.

  • His first name is Lourawls. Nicknamed “Tum Tum” after a character in the 1992 movie “3 Ninjas.” He moved from the Bahamas when he was 13.

  • QUOTE: “He has the ability to control tempo, and we’d like the tempo to be high,” Izzo said. “Tum brings that.”

No. 3 — G Alvin Ellis III | 6-4, 210, sr.

  • Started the last seven games after senior Eron Harris suffered a season-ending injury. In 30 minutes against Miami, Ellis had seven points and seven rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting. He missed all five of his attempts from behind the 3-point arc.

  • Averaging 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. He’s shooting 37 percent from the 3-point line and he ranks second on the team in steals (21).

  • The Chicago native was a co-recipient of Michigan State’s Most Improved Player Award. He’s scored more points this season (223) than his first three years combined.

  • Ellis originally committed to Minnesota, but was let out of his letter of intent when former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith was fired.

  • QUOTE: “He’s not gentle with anybody,” Ellis said Izzo. “He’s always gonna get on you, but it’s all teaching and you just got to take in the spirit it’s given and learn from it. We know he’s trying to better us, better the team and put us in a position where we can win games or be successful in our own lives.”

No. 1 — G Joshua Langford | 6-5, 210, fr.

Michigan State guard Joshua Langford (1) looks to throw  pass around Miami guard Bruce Brown (11) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Joshua Langford (1) looks to throw pass around Miami guard Bruce Brown (11) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • The McDonald’s All-American scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the first round against Miami, including 2-of-4 from deep. He added two rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes. The Spartans are 7-0 when he scores in double figures.

  • One of the most efficient 3-pointer shooters in the Big Ten, Langford averaged 6.8 points and 2.3 rebounds throughout the season. He’s connected on 35 of 84 threes (41.7 percent).

  • He’s averaging 9.4 points in his last 10 games, which includes a career-high 17-point outing against Nebraska in February. He’s made at least one 3-pointer in seven straight games.

  • The Huntsville, Ala., native delivered sermon at his church on every third Sunday. He survived a bout with bacterial meningitis at 12 years old.

  • QUOTE: “It was everything I imagined it would be and then some,” said Langford of the NCAA Tournament. “Just a blessing to be able to be on this high-level stage and be a part of it.”

No. 22 — F Miles Bridges | 6-7, 230, fr.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • In his tournament debut, Bridges was dominant with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in a team-high 35 minutes. He shot 8-of-12 from the floor, and made 2 of 4 3-pointers.

  • The Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year is averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, ranking seventh in the Big Ten in points and fifth in rebounding. His points per game average is the most by a MSU freshman since Magic Johnson.

  • The Flint, Mich., native leads the Spartans in made threes (54) as a 39 percent shooter from deep. He’s second on the team in blocks (43) and third in steals (18).

  • Draft Express has Bridges, a likely one-and-done prospect, going 12th in the upcoming NBA Draft. He features a team-best 42 inch vertical leap. Bridges missed seven games earlier this season with an ankle injury.

  • QUOTE: “Sometimes you need a jerk,” Izzo said. “That’s what I’m hoping Miles will turn into a little bit. That’s the area I’d like to see him grow and be a little more demanding of those things. Because once they get out on that court, we (the coaches) really are invisible.”

No. 44 — F Nick Ward | 6-8, 250, fr.

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) gets a bucket against Miami during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) gets a bucket against Miami during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • A lefty who’s drawn some comparisons to Zach Randolph, Ward scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting against Miami in the first round of the tournament. He added seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 26 minutes.

  • Ward earned an all-Big Ten honorable mention after 13.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s snagged 95 offensive boards and leads the team with 53 blocks. He’s scored in double figures in 24 of the team’s last 28 games.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Ward has converted on 73 percent of his shots around the rim. The freshman with a 7-3 wingspan is shooting 59 percent from the floor, which ranked third in the Big Ten.

  • His dad, Jeff, played at Tiffin University in Ohio and was the program’s all-time leader in points (2,532), rebounds (1,212) and blocks (226).

  • QUOTE: “He was pretty lazy at the beginning of the season,” associate head coach Dwayne Stephens said. “He still has his moments where he still takes plays off, but the biggest thing is he’s running the floor well. He’s posting hard. He’s playing with a little more energy and he’s been pretty good on the ball screens. That was one of the things he really needed to improve at, and I think he’s done that.”

MICHIGAN STATE BENCH

No. 20 — G Matt McQuaid | 6-4, 200, soph.

Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid (20) drives to th bucket during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid (20) drives to th bucket during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • Off of the bench against Miami, McQuaid had seven points (2-of-4 shooting) with five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers in 25 minutes.

  • Known as one of the team’s top defenders and 3-point shooters, McQuaid is averaging 5.5 points and 1.9 rebounds on 34.5 percent shooting from deep. According to hoop-math.com, McQuaid takes a team-low 11.5 percent of his shots at the rim.

  • His sister, Andrea, played volleyball professionally in Europe. His dad, Rob, played basketball at Central Michigan and Midwestern State.

No. 5 — G Cassius Winston | 6-0, 185, fr.

  • Kansas coach Bill Self called him “one of the best passers in college basketball.” Against Miami, he had seven points and five assists without a turnover in 22 minutes. Miami coach Jim Larranaga compared him to Steve Nash.

  • Playing mostly off of the bench because of his defense, Winston was second in the Big Ten with 5.1 assists per game and his 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio was tied for fourth in the conference. His 174 assists in the season are second-most by a freshman, only trailing Magic Johnson.

  • A childhood friend of Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, Winston graduated magna cum laude from University of Detroit Jesuit and was accepted at Harvard.

No. 25 — F Kenny Goins | 6-6, 230, r-soph.

Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) gets up to defend against a shot by Miami center Ebuka Izundu (15) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At right is Miami guard Ja'Quan Newton (0).

Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) gets up to defend against a shot by Miami center Ebuka Izundu (15) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At right is Miami guard Ja'Quan Newton (0). by Nick Krug

  • A former walk-on, Goins scored six points with two rebounds and two turnovers in 12 minutes against Miami in the first round.

  • Goins ranks third on the team with 4.6 rebounds per game and 21 blocks this season. He’s averaging 3.3. points on 57.5 percent shooting (46 of 80).

  • From Troy, Mich., Goins grew up a Michigan State fan and tailgated at football game since he was 6 years old. He attended the 2014 Rose Bowl during his senior year of high school.

No. 0 — G/F Kyle Ahrens | 6-5, 215, soph.

  • Played five minutes against Miami in the first round and didn’t record any statistics.

  • Ahrens is averaging 2.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game. He’s shooting 15 of 45 from the 3-point line (33 percent).

  • He’s only played double-digit minutes in two of the last 18 games.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.