Tom Izzo

Michigan St. may be done with Adreian Payne-Derrick Nix experiment

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In an effort to get his five best players on the floor, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has used a starting lineup that features both Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix in six of the Spartans’ seven games.

But after Michigan State’s 67-59 loss to Miami on Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, it looks like the experiment may be coming to an end.

Neither Payne (four points, five rebounds) nor Nix (three points, five rebounds) played particularly well, and the Hurricanes were able to take advantage of those two as help defenders in ball screen situations in the second half (Miami scored 40 points).

And with guards Gary Harris and Travis Trice returning to the lineup on Wednesday, the five games leading up to the Spartans’ match-up with Texas on December 22 would be a good time to make the switch.

“It’s like I’m the problem for the team, so I guess me playing (center) would make it better,” said Payne, who finished with four points and five rebounds. “I feel that I ought to play better.

“I think I’m getting better at it, but I guess we don’t have time for me to keep making mistakes and getting better. We’re trying to win games. If I’m at (center), that’s what I know. That’s what probably will end up happening.”

The question now is which of the two moves to the bench. Through seven games both Payne and Nix are averaging 7.3 points per contest, with Nix (7.3 rpg) grabbing about one more rebound on the average (Payne’s averaging 6.4 rpg) and Payne being the better shot blocker (1.7 bpg). With the bulkier Nix also averaging seven more minutes per game, one would assume that he’d get the nod in the middle.

Payne’s been the more “explosive” of the two offensively (explosive is a generous word) with his season-high being 15 points while Nix’s best output was a 10-point night in the Spartans’ 70-52 win over Oakland. But Nix has been the more consistent scorer of the two (one game with four points or less; Payne has three).

Who will Izzo choose to man the middle against Nicholls State? Regardless of the answer, Michigan State needs both candidates to raise their production as the Spartans get closer to the start of Big Ten play.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.