Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 10/10/11

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

Ranked second in the pre-season polls a year ago, the Michigan State Spartans finished with an incredibly disappointing season.  Expectations are much lower in 2011-2012 as Sparty loses three starters, but never count out Tom Izzo’s ability to make magic happen.

Last Season: T-4th, 9-9 in Big Ten, 19-15 overall
Predicted Big Ten Finish: 4th

Projected Depth Chart
C: Derrick Nix (Jr)/Adreian Payne (So)
PF: Draymond Green (Sr)/Alex Gauna (Fr)
SF: Branden Dawson (Fr)/Austin Thornton (Sr)
SG: Keith Appling (So)/Russell Byrd (Fr)/Brandan Kearney (Fr)
PG: Brandon Wood (Sr)/Travis Trice (Fr)

Gone: PG-Kalin Lucas, SG-Durrell Summers, PF-Delvon Roe, SG-Mike Kebler, PG-Korie Lucious (transfer-Iowa State), C-Garrick Sherman (transfer-Notre Dame)

2011-2012 Outlook:
The one constant for Sparty this season is the versatile Draymond Green.  Though undersized at 6-6, he is a factor inside due to his strength and toughness.  Green is also dangerous on the perimeter where he has improved the consistency of his jumper and actually led the team in assists last year.  He will also be the emotional leader of the team.

MSU took a hit to their frontcourt when Delvon Roe was forced to retire from basketball due to chronic knee problems.  Roe’s absence should pave for the way for McDonald’s All-American Branden Dawson to immediately step into the starting line-up.  Dawson has a great combination of strength and athleticism and will be an interesting compliment to Green in the frontcourt.  Redshirt freshman Alex Gauna and senior Austin Thornton will likely be used as role players off the bench.

Despite the transfer of Garrick Sherman, the Spartans have quality size in the middle.  Derrick Nix worked on cutting weight and getting in better shape this summer as conditioning factored into his struggles last season.  He will still need to throw his big body around inside and Izzo is counting on him to become a more consistent contributor.  Nix will battle for minutes in the middle with sophomore Adriean Payne who showed flashes as a freshman and should benefit from a year of experience.

The backcourt must replace both starters.  Keith Appling took advantage of Korie Lucious transferring during the season as he received a major boost in minutes.  Appling is capable of playing either guard position as is his likely backcourt mate, Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood.  Wood becomes immediately eligible since he graduated from Valpo and enrolled at State as a graduate student.  His addition gives Sparty a veteran presence in a very young backcourt. He’s someone who is capable of scoring double digits every night if he can make the transition to playing better competition on a game-in, game-out basis.

The depth at guard has zero college basketball experience.  Russell Byrd redshirted last season due to a foot injury but is a long wing who can flat out shoot it from deep.  Freshman Travis Trice is another gunner from distance who will see limited time at the point while athletic two guard Brandon Kearney also tries to work his way into the rotation.

Mr. Basketball in Michigan, Dwaun Anderson was supposed to add more depth at guard but chose not to enroll in school because he wanted to get some personal issues in order after the death of his mother this past spring.

Their streak of 14 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament will continue this season.  As we have learned with Izzo’s Spartans, anytime they get to the dance, MSU is capable of making a run regardless of their regular season record or seed.  For that to happen this year, the Wood-Appling backcourt must find their sync and get solid play from Dawson, Nix, and Payne inside.  With so many new faces though, I can’t put Michigan State any higher than this in my rankings; even with their recent history of success.

Player to Watch: Keith Appling
Wood’s arrival takes some of the pressure off Appling in terms of becoming the primary ball-handler and backcourt leader.  He is the team’s top three point shooter but is also capable of using his athleticism to get to the basket.  He probably has to at least double his scoring average (6.4) from last year if Sparty is to make some real noise in the Big Ten and around the country.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/11 vs. North Carolina (on a friggen aircraft carrier)
11/15 vs. Duke (in New York)
11/30 vs. Florida State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
12/10 at Gonzaga

OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#33 Florida State Seminoles
#34 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
#35 Harvard Crimson
#36 Illinois Fighting Illini
#37 Oregon Ducks
#38 Wichita State Shockers
#39 Cal Golden Bears
#40 Belmont Bruins
#41 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#42 Saint Mary’s Gaels
#43 Purdue Boilermakers
#44 BYU Cougars
#45 Kansas State Wildcats
#46 West Virginia Mountaineers
#47 Virginia Cavaliers
#48 George Mason Patriots
#49 Old Dominion Monarchs
#50 VCU Rams
#51 Kent State Golden Flashes
#52 Arkansas Razorbacks
#53 St. John’s Red Storm
#54 Northwestern Wildcats
#55 Georgetown Hoyas
#56 Miami Hurricanes
#57 Nevada Wolfpack
#58 Detroit Titans
#59 UCF Knights
#60 Long Beach State 49ers
#61 Virginia Tech Hokies
#62 Clemson Tigers
#63 New Mexico State Aggies
#64 Tennessee Volunteers
#65 Iona Gaels
#66 Murray State Racers
#67 N.C. State Wolfpack
#68 Fairfield Stags
#69 George Washingon Colonials
#70 Indiana State Sycamores
#71 Oklahoma State Cowboys
#72 Indiana Hoosiers
#73 UAB Blazers
#74 Iowa State Cyclones
#75 Creighton Bluejays
#76 USC Trojans
#77 Weber State Wildcats
#78 Maryland Terrapins
#79 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
#80 Minnesota Golden Gophers
#81 Western Michigan Broncos
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs
#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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