College Basketball Insider

No. 1 seed: Michigan State's not most talented, but intangible there


Imagine how strong the Spartans will be if Draymond Green gets going on the court. (US Presswire)  
Imagine how strong the Spartans will be if Draymond Green gets going on the court. (US Presswire)  

I'm a big believer in talent and athleticism because those things usually determine greatness in college basketball. But other things matter, too. And Michigan State has all the other things to make a serious run in this NCAA tournament.

Great coach? Check. Great leader? Check. Great chemistry? Check.

The Spartans aren't the nation's most talented team and they aren't the Big Ten's most talented team, either. Still, they are the Big Ten regular-season and tournament champions, and they might just turn into our national champions, too.

Let's take a look at the top-seeded Spartans.

Record: 27-7

Why they'll win it all: Draymond Green is a rarity in that he's a great talent who is also a great leader and teammate. Tom Izzo has called him "the perfect Spartan," and that seems like a nice label. He's not surrounded by the type of talent that surrounds Anthony Davis or Harrison Barnes, but the other pieces at Michigan State are good enough. And they guard like crazy. And Green's just the type of star to carry them to a title.

Why they won't: Simply put, Michigan State isn't as talented as some of the nation's other elite teams, and Branden Dawson's torn ACL only widened the gap. If anybody can overcome these things, it's Izzo. But eventually he'll run into an opponent with obviously better players, and then what?

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Player to watch: Green won the Big Ten Player of the Year award by averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. He's the centerpiece of the roster and program, a 6-foot-7 forward with a high basketball IQ who understands how to play, fill up a box score and win.

One guy soaring: Brandon Wood has scored better than his average in four straight games. The transfer from Valparaiso got 15 last Sunday against Ohio State, 10 in the Big Ten quarters, nine in the Big Ten semifinals and 21 points in Sunday's title game victory over the Buckeyes.

One guy slumping: Though Green is the star, he will not enter the NCAA tournament playing his best basketball. He was only 3 of 9 from the field in Saturday's win over Wisconsin and 4 of 15 from the field in Sunday's win over Ohio State. The senior must be better going forward, obviously.

Best off the bench: Derrick Nix is a big-bodied center who can be bothersome for other post players. He averages 19 minutes and is a nice alternative to Adreian Payne, the Spartans' more athletic presence in the paint. Notable stat: Michigan State ranks third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The only schools better are Ohio State and Louisville.

Final thought: The Spartans started 0-2 and didn't look good doing it. But they came together over time like a good college basketball team with a great college basketball coach should, and now they're in position to give Izzo his seventh Final Four.

Will it happen?

Who knows?

But bet against Izzo at your own risk.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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