Q&A with Michigan State Hoops Reporter Gillian Van Stratt

Keith Appling, Andre Hollins

Andre Hollins can only watch Keith Appling’s layup at the Barn.

Gillian Van Stratt, the Michigan State beat for mlive.com, was kind enough to answer some questions we had about the upcoming matchup between Minnesota and the fourth-ranked Spartans. 

Q: Michigan State has a very well-rounded and talented lineup, with four stars in Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, and Branden Dawson. With such a balanced group, does Michigan State have any weaknesses? What could the Gophers hope to exploit?

When all four of the guys you mentioned are healthy and dialed in, Michigan State is incredibly difficult to beat. But other than Keith Appling, who’s been consistent as well as deadly from long range this season (he leads the Big Ten at 48.2 percent), there’s inconsistency of various origins. Gary Harris is still recovering from the sprained ankle he suffered in August. When 100 percent, he’s one of the best players in the country. But according to Izzo, the significant time Harris missed has left him less than 100 percent conditioning wise. Adreian Payne dealt with plantar fasciitis for a few weeks. Now, due to compensating for that, he has a sprained right foot. Branden Dawson’s only hurdle is Branden Dawson. He’s the Big Ten’s best rebounder when he wants to be the Big Ten’s best rebounder. His inconsistent focus, in combination with Payne’s health, have kept Michigan State from being the type of rebounding machine that Izzo is famous for. If you want to exploit Michigan State, you’ll have to do it in the paint.

Ellis

Gavin Schilling blocks Alvin Ellis’ shot.

Q: The Spartans have two former Minnesota recruiting targets in Alvin Ellis and Gavin Schilling. They’ve played a reasonable amount of time this year. What do you think of the Chicago freshman?

Ideally, Izzo would have liked to redshirt both of these guys. But injuries to his guards and a lack of depth in the post have forced him to play both. Ellis and Schilling show signs that they will be valuable players down the road, but it’s hard to see either of them playing significant minutes this season. Ellis shows flashes of a special player. His smooth burst to the rim is impressive. He has surprised Izzo defensively, but is still a long ways away. Schilling on the other hand could be further along if it wasn’t for his penchant for fouls. When Matt Costello went down with mono, there was an opportunity for guys like Schilling to get some major minutes. He ended spending half of those on the bench in foul trouble. Izzo believes he can turn Schilling into a dominant post player and a great rebounder, but his development is in its infancy. In a world of one-and-dones, it’s easy to look past players like Schilling and Ellis. But call me in three years, and something tells me they’ll be two more examples of hand-crafted Izzo winners.

Q: Perhaps Minnesota’s biggest weakness this year is defending two-point shots. The Spartans are one of the best shooting teams in the country (49% fg). What can the Gophers do to halt MSU’s offense? What’s worked so far to stop MSU’s offense?

Halting Michigan State is all about one thing: stop the transition train. When the Spartans are flying in transition, they’re unstoppable. Pressure them, fatigue them, and the half court offense can stutter.

Tom Izzo

Izzo is 453-179 in his 19 seasons at Michigan State.

Q: Prediction for the game?

On paper and at home, Michigan State should win this game. But as of Thursday, the Spartans were missing both Adreian Payne (sprained foot) and Travis Trice (flu). If neither of them can go, Michigan State is in trouble. Payne’s perimeter shooting stretches defenses. Trice is a valued ball handler who Izzo looks to against teams who like to pressure you. If Minnesota stops MSU in transition and gets them to turn the ball over, watch out. Izzo had a good record against Tubby, but Richard Pitino has a chance to get a resume win in his first trip to Breslin is Payne and Trice can’t go.

Q: On a football note, congrats on winning the Rose Bowl! What are the expectations and goals for Spartan football next year?

The expectations have never been higher for Spartan football. They watched that Florida State-Auburn game and they walked away believing they could have taken either one. But while they’re still picking out championship ring bling and walking around campus with their heads held high, they’re about to get a full dose of strength and conditioning guru Ken Mannie. He’s going to make damn sure no one inside the football building gets complacent. I’m sick to my stomach just imagining it. As for Spartan nation, they’re happier and more confident than they’ve been since the 60s. With both the basketball team and the football team ranked in the Top 5, who can blame them.

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Photo credit: Sports Illustrated



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One Response

  1. Scouting report: Minnesota guards off and running under first-year coach Richard Pitino | Ann-Arbor NewsAnn-Arbor News

    [...] With Minnesota (13-3, 2-1) heading to town to take on No. 5 Michigan State (14-1, 3-0) on Saturday, we caught up with The Gopher Report founder and Gopher247 writer, Matt Gravett for an inside look at the Golden Gophers. In exchange, we offered our own scouting report on Spartan basketball, which can be read here. [...]

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