No. 2 Michigan State opens against McNeese State

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Updated: November 8, 2013

East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) – The second-ranked Michigan State
Spartans begin what they hope is another highly successful campaign, as they
play host to the Cowboys of McNeese State on Friday night.

McNeese State, which calls the Southland Conference home, is facing its
highest ranked team since taking on No. 1 Illinois in the 1989 NCAA Tournament
(a 77-71 loss). The Cowboys are embarking on their eighth season with coach
Dave Simmons at the helm, but the return of three starters gives fans optimism
that this season can be better than the 14-17 ledger the team put up a year
ago.

Michigan State has won seven Big Ten titles and been to six Final Fours since
Tom Izzo took the reins, and the Spartans are once again poised for greatness
as they return the majority of last season’s team that reached the Sweet 16.
MSU is 90-24 all-time in season openers, and has won 33 of its last 36.
Following this bout, the Spartans will battle No. 1 Kentucky in Chicago next
Tuesday.

This game marks the first-ever meeting between McNeese State and Michigan
State in men’s basketball.

The Cowboys are hoping the return of Ledrick Eackles, who left the team
abruptly for personal reasons midway through last season, will give them the
boost they need to challenge in the Southland this year. As a collective unit,
McNeese State was average in both scoring offense (66.3 ppg) and scoring
defense (70.1 ppg), and with Eackles back to join Desharick Guidry (12.6 ppg,
7.5 rpg), Kevin Hardy (9.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Craig McFerrin (8.7 ppg, 6.5
rpg), coach Simmons is hoping his team can reach its goals. Desharick Guidry
could be a standout performer as he shot 41 percent from long range last
season, but he will miss the first nine games due to academic issues. Others
who could make a splash for the Pokes later this season include center
sophomore center Matthew Moss (transfer, available Jan. 2), and freshman
Marcus Mathieu, should he recover fully from knee surgery.

Led by guard Keith Appling (13.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.3 apg), Michigan State
returns its top three scorers as backcourt mate Gary Harris (12.9 ppg, .411 3-
point) and forward Adreian Payne (10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 46 blocks) make up the
core of what Spartans fans hope is another lengthy run in the month of March.
MSU not only beats its opponents by scoring in bunches, but by also corralling
the majority of loose balls and playing some pretty stingy defense. Last
season, foes averaged just 59.1 ppg in hitting fewer than 40 percent of their
field goal attempts, while also losing the battle on the boards by 7.5 caroms
per contest. The key will be staying healthy and finding a suitable
replacement for the one guy the team doesn’t have back, former center Derrick
Nix (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg).