Keith Appling

Michigan State needs a refreshed Keith Appling for stretch run

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On the heels of a 1-of-8 night in No. 4 Michigan State’s loss to No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday night, junior point guard Keith Appling needed to bounce back if the Spartans were to win at No. 18 Ohio State.

Unfortunately for Appling and the Spartans that didn’t happen, as he accounted for three points (1-of-6 FG), one assist and three turnovers in Michigan State’s 68-60 loss in Columbus.

On the season Appling averages 13.8 points and 3.9 assists per game, but over the last four games (Michigan State is 2-2) he’s shooting 24.3% from the field and averaging 9.0 points, 2.0 assists and 4.0 turnovers per game.

With 1:03 remaining and the Spartans trailing by five (65-60) Appling committed a crucial turnover, overthrowing Adreian Payne and with that went Michigan State’s final chance of closing to within one possession.

The key for Michigan State in regards to both the Big Ten and national title races is to get their starting point guard back on track, and that ultimately comes down to two players.

First and foremost Appling needs to play better basketball, something that no one will dispute. So who’s the other player involved in the equation? Sophomore guard Travis Trice.

Trice has played 17 minutes in the last two games (11 against Ohio State) after missing four contests due to a head injury suffered in Michigan State’s 80-75 win over Illinois on January 31. With Trice sidelined not only has Appling played an average of 35 minutes per game, which isn’t much more than his season average of 33.6 minutes/game, but he’s also been asked to do a lot more on the defensive end of the floor.

And when considering the fact that Michigan State has taken on Michigan (Trey Burke), Indiana (Yogi Ferrell) and Ohio State (Aaron Craft) in the last 12 days this stretch has been no cakewalk for Appling.

“We beat the hell out of Keith Appling,” head coach Tom Izzo stated in a story by Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press on Saturday. “Lots of teams play guys 38 minutes, but a lot of teams don’t rely on that guy that is playing 38 minutes to push it and check the hell out of the best player.”

There’s no doubt that Appling is a talented player who has hit a rough patch, but it’s important to note the increased responsibilities once Trice went down. If Trice can take on more minutes as Michigan State approaches March, Appling and the Spartans will benefit as a result.

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

BUBBLE BANTER: Key Atlantic 10, Big East bubble games

Kelan Martin, Kyle Alexander
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This post will be updated throughout the night.

Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ben Simmons, LSU get tested at South Carolina; more important bubble matchups

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives downcourt as teammate Antonio Blakeney (2) follows in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in New York. For all of his gaudy numbers, Simmons is still trying to figure out the best way to put the Tigers in position to win. And now the schedule gets harder, starting with Tuesday night's, Dec. 29, 2015, tilt against Wake Forest, followed by the opening of Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.

LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.

An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
  2. No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
  3. An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
  4. In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
  5. No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.