Freshman Raymar Morgan is showing no signs of newcomer's nerves at his first Big Ten Tournament.
March 8, 2007
The Spartans' defense is not only the best in the nation, but it also ranks among the best in Michigan State history. The current unit allows opponents an average of 56.3 points per outing, the lowest total since 1951-52 when the Spartan opposition garnered only 56.0 points per game.
The squad's defensive performance also ranks third in the nation behind only Princeton (52.9 ppg) and Air Force (55.7 ppg).
With an impressive run to March Madness' greatest stage at the 2005 Final Four, the Spartans became the first team to have appeared in four of the last eight Final Fours. They are also only the eighth school in NCAA history to have advanced to the four-team extravaganza of the Big Dance in any seven-year period, one that includes a national championship from 2000.
Freshman Raymar Morgan - despite his first-year status and an injury that kept him off the lineup for seven games - is the Spartans second-leading scorer with 11.2 ppg.
On March 6, 1999, Mateen Cleaves tallied a Big Ten record of 11 assists in a 56-41 victory over Wisconsin in the semifinals of the 199 Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Cleaves also scored a team-best 14 points in recording a double-double. The Spartans defeated Illinois, 67-50, the next day to win the program's first Big Ten Tournament title as Cleaves was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, adding 10 assists in the championship game. The Big Ten's all-time assist leader with 816, Cleaves also holds the career tournament record with 55.
Michigan State became the first school to win back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles. The Spartans defeated Illinois in both championship games, claiming a 67-50 victory in the 1999 title contest before posting a 76-61 victory in 2000. Teammate Morris Peterson followed Cleaves, claiming the 2000 Tournament MVP award after averaging 18 points per game.
A year ago, current MSU guard Drew Neitzel ranked among the Big Ten leaders in assists, distributing to three future NBA players, but he only averaged 8.3 points per outing. As the Spartan leader - even though he's only a junior - Neitzel has upped his scoring average to 18.3 per contest. While getting more aggressive and taking more shots, Neitzel has been able to keep his shots efficient, shooting a career-best 43.7 percent from the field.