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Coaches Vs Cancer Classic | Opponent Preview: Michigan St. Spartans

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Kevin C. Cox

"As you guys know, throughout the past three years, we've always said we wanted to run. But I think this is the first year where this is actually what we do." -Travis Trice

The Michigan St. Spartans have their eyes set on a national championship this season and they certainly have the talent and experience to make a run at one. After defeating the preseason No. 1 team, Kentucky earlier this season, Tom Izzo and his squad take over as the top ranked team. Now, their eyes are set on the Oklahoma Sooners as they meet up for the Championship of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic.

The Opponent

The one thing the Michigan St. Spartans will look to do all season is get out in the transition game. But, Head Coach Tom Izzo seems to think this may be the best Spartan team during his tenure. For this first time since 2000, this is a squad that has the potential to run with anyone.

"It's almost the best I've ever had it, I think," Izzo said of this team's personnel and ability to run. "We don't have maybe the number of wings when you had Brown and Ager and (Alan) Anderson and (Kelvin) Torbert ... in the Cleaves era, we didn't really have another point guard to push it.

It all starts with point guard Keith Appling who is more comfortable than ever pushing the pace and getting out in the open court. Because, of the attention Appling draws, it opens things up for other players. This is a point guard who is not afraid to make a pass as he is dropping 6.4 dimes a game to go along with 14.8 points. However, his biggest point of emphasis is turnovers as Appling averages just 1.6 a game.

The leading scorer for the Spartans is Adreian Payne, a senior averaging 19.8 points per game alongside 8.2 rebounds. He is a beast in the middle of the floor and presents a challenge to smaller opponents such as the frontcourt of the Sooners. While he has played away from the basket on many occasions, he remains the best post option for Izzo.

There is no doubt that this team is headlined Gary Harris, the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. This is one player who was made to play transition basketball. Through five games, Harris is averaging  17 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He is literally all over the floor and definitely a stat stuffer. Conditioning has been a priority for this squad and Harris sets the pace for which all others must live up to.

The brand of Michigan St. basketball is what makes them tough to beat. An unselfish style of play that is up-tempo has led to 22.4 assists per game to rank second nationally.

The Game

The Championship game is set to tip off at 8:30 PM CST on TruTV.