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At what point do Michigan State’s injury woes become a larger concern?


We’ve been saying it for so long, it’s almost because second-nature: No. 13 Michigan State is good, but just wait until they get healthy.

And the party line won’t be any different after the Spartans lost to in-state rival No. 20 Michigan in Crisler Arena on Sunday afternoon.

Tom Izzo’s club jumped out to an early lead and had control of the game for much of the first half, but Nik Stauskas took over in the second half, scoring 21 of his 25 points after the break, leading the Wolverines to a 79-70 win. He and Caris LeVert, who scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, sparked a game-changing, 17-4 run midway through the half.

The loss means that Sparty was swept by the Wolverines this season. It also dropped them a game behind Big Blue in the Big Ten standings with just four games left to play. The Wolverines don’t play another tournament team. Michigan State still have Iowa at home and a trip to Ohio State left on their schedule.

So long story short, this loss most likely cost the Spartans a Big Ten regular season title.

But the bigger issue is going to be whether or not this team can actually get back to playing their best basketball.

Adreian Payne and Gary Harris are ready to go. Harris has gotten past his ankle issue and Payne’s foot seems to be all better, which is why both have played like lottery picks in recent games. Branden Dawson has gotten the screws removed from his broken hand and Keith Appling has now played in the last three games. They are almost back to having a full roster available.

The problem, however, is whether or not the Spartans can get back to playing the kind of basketball they were playing earlier this year.

I’ll be honest: on paper, if you give me Tom Izzo with a team that includes Appling, Harris, Dawson and Payne, I’m likely picking that team to win the title regardless of who the fifth guy is. But right now, Appling is not himself. You can see it. He landed hard on a lob attempt on Sunday and his wrist was visibly bothering him. In the three games since he came back, he hasn’t played more than 25 minutes, has taken just seven shots and scored only nine points. He’s 0-for-2 from three and 1-for-3 from the line.

In other words, he’s hurting.

But this injury happened in December against North Carolina. That’s two-and-a-half months ago. He missed three games in an effort to get it healed up. It’s still bothering him. At this point, why should we assume that it will get better?

Appling’s injury is only part of the issue.

When so many guys have missed so many games, what happens if they do all end up on the floor together again? Will they be able to mesh? Will they remember what sets to run? Will they be comfortable playing alongside one another? Will everything click?

Who knows.

We’re all waiting for the Spartans to get back to 100%, but at what point do we ask A) if they can get to full strength, or B) if their full-strength is as good as it was in November?

Pressure is on new coach Steve Prohm at Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa (AP) Five months ago, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm was the coach at mid-major Murray State. Now he’s in charge of one of the big favorites in the Big 12.

Prohm officially began his first season in charge of the Cyclones on Tuesday with the team’s annual media day.

Iowa State has all the pieces to make a run at the league title and more – provided that Prohm can handle coaching college basketball at the highest level, of course.

In the minds of Prohm’s players, the Cyclones have nothing to worry about.

“Coach (Prohm) is in here earning our trust and our respect every day,” said senior forward Georges Niang. “Even though he’s not trying to cross any of our toes, he puts his foot down when he needs to and lets us know that stuff needs to get done. I think he has a great combination of how to keep us motivated…and still be stern and be able to get the most out of us.”

Fred Hoiberg’s departure for the Chicago Bulls after five mostly successful seasons gave Prohm a shot at a national title. The roster Hoiberg left behind for Prohm is loaded.

Niang, a likely preseason first-team All-American, second-team All-Big 12 point guard Monte Morris and league defensive player of the year Jameel McKay headline one of the nation’s most talented starting units. Throw in veterans like Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader and transfer Deonte Burton, and Prohm might just have the best roster a new Power Five coach has inherited since Bill Guthridge took over for Dean Smith at North Carolina in 1997.

Guthridge reached the Final Four with his first team.

Prohm isn’t shying away from the notion that Iowa State is among the handful of teams with serious national title aspirations.

“Yeah, they’re realistic,” Prohm said when asked about the sky-high expectations for this year’s team. “I think we have the opportunity to have a very special season.”

The similarities between what type of styles Prohm and Hoiberg use was cited as a big reason why Iowa State hired him. Hoiberg even lobbied for Prohm to athletic director Jamie Pollard during the hiring process.

To that end, Prohm is going to let his players have a ton of input on how they play. Prohm doesn’t plan many changes, just tweaks that mostly involve techniques to improve Iowa State’s somewhat inconsistent rebounding and defense.

“I don’t need to say, `This is the way we’re doing things guys because this is the way I did it.’ That’s stupid,” Prohm said. “I need to meet these guys halfway.”

Prohm also acknowledged that he’ll be doing quite a bit of learning himself this season. But Prohm said he intends to embrace the unique opportunity he’s been afforded.

“This is a great situation to walk into. No question,” Prohm said. “Is there pressure? Yeah. But who wants a job with no pressure?”

Lawyer: Pierre suspended due to ‘unfair and defective process’

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Dayton forward Dyshawn Pierre, who is suspended from school for the fall semester stemming from a sexual assault allegation, has sued the university over what his lawyer calls an “unfair and defective internal process”.

Peter R. Ginsberg, Pierre’s lawyer, released a statement to NBCSports.com on Wednesday stating that his client intends to file suit over the ruling, saying that the school arrived at a suspension through “fundamentally unfair and defective internal process that deprived him of vital rights and protections and has resulted in a disruption in his education, a drastic blow to his reputation, and a potentially fatal interference” with basketball.

Pierre was suspended due to an incident that allegedly took place in mid-April and was reported in May, according to the Dayton Daily News. The prosecutor declined to press charges in the case due to a lack of evidence, the paper reported.

Pierre, a 6-foot-6 wing that averaged 12.7 points last season, is not currently enrolled at the school.

“What has been done to me has been grossly unfair. The allegations against me are false,” he said. “And now I find myself with my reputation tarnished, my schooling interrupted and my dream of helping the basketball team win a national championship being threatened. I want justice, and I want a return to my normal life.”

Ginsberg represented Dez Wells in a similar case. Wells, then at Xavier, was expelled by the university in 2012 following a sexual assault allegation, but he won a settlement from the school in 2014. The crux of Ginsberg’s claims regarding Pierre’s case is that the process by which Dayton reached this conclusion is fundamentally flawed.