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.