Every morning at7:30 the Spartans gather at an on-campus cafeteria for a mandatory teambreakfast. In the past, 6-foot senior guard Drew Neitzel, who weighed 155pounds when he arrived in East Lansing, would gulp down a few spoonfuls ofFroot Loops before dashing off to class. "Now I have a big breakfast--eggs,sausage, toast, pancakes--and I try to keep eating throughout the day,"says Neitzel, who has bulked up to 185. "I'm stronger than I've everbeen."
Neitzel showed howmuch the added strength benefited him when he led the U.S. team in minutesplayed (29.6 per game) at the Pan¬†Am Games in Brazil last summer. Now heand his Michigan State teammates will carry the weight of high expectations.The Spartans began last season unranked yet finished 23-12 and reached thesecond round of the NCAA tournament. This year, with three promising freshmenjoining five returning starters, they're well-positioned to win their first BigTen championship since 2001.
After averagingjust 5.9 points during his first two seasons, Neitzel emerged last year as oneof the nation's most dangerous combo guards. He was especially lethal afterhalftime: His scoring average increased by 50% in the second half, and hepoured in 24 of his 29 points in the final 20 minutes of a 66-64 loss at OhioState. Coach Tom Izzo hopes that the addition of freshmen guards Chris Allen,Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will allow Neitzel to play fewer minutes--his35.7 per game were more than any Spartan in 16 years--yet average more points."We're going to run every possession," Izzo says. "Last year we hadto walk it up because we didn't have enough guys."
One guy MichiganState will count on is 6' 7" sophomore forward Raymar Morgan, who missedfour weeks last season with a stress reaction in his shin but returned toaverage 14.0 points over the last 10 games. Still, Izzo will need to develop areliable post scorer--and he must find out whether this group can handle itshigh ranking. "Last year people [predicted] we wouldn't even make thetournament, so every time we stepped on the court, we wanted to prove themwrong," says Neitzel. "I think we'll continue to be hungry."
6'10"Jr.9.3 ppg6.7 rpg C KEY RESERVE
Drew Naymick 6'10" Sr. 3.7 ppg 3.9 rpg
Nov. 13-14 CBEClassic (vs. Chicago State; plus Louisiana-Monroe, Northern Michigan; winnersplay in Kansas City on Nov.¬†19-20)
Nov. 28 N.C.State
Dec 4 atBradley
Dec. 8 BYU (inSalt Lake City)
Dec. 15Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne
Dec. 19 San JoseState
Dec. 22 Texas (inAuburn Hills, Mich.)
Dec. 29Wisconsin-Green Bay
AnalysisFewcoaches are more aggressive in scheduling tough dates than Tom Izzo. Cases inpoint: the showdowns with N.C. State and Texas. This slate lacks difficult roadgames, but at least give Izzo credit for taking on BYU in its home state andfor playing Bradley, a formidable mid-major, in Peoria, Ill.
Coach Tom Izzo(13th year)
Big Ten record 8-8(T-7th)
NCAA tournament2nd round
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GREAT DEAL Neitzel is expected to play fewer minutes than he did last year yet score more points.