Things are looking up for Tom Izzo and Big Ten preseason player of the year Gary Harris. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
Rosemont, Ill. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo isn't shying away from the high expectations for his team this season.
The Spartans are No. 2 in the nation in the preseason coaches' poll and on Thursday they were a unanimous selection to win the Big Ten championship.
"I think we deserve to be up there," Izzo said at the conference's media day. "I'm not sure we deserve to be where we are (No. 2), and I'm not sure anybody does at this time, because of the parity that still is in college basketball. And I do think we've got a good team. I think we've got a veteran team. I think we've added some pieces. We've got some guys back healthy.
"You put all those things together, I think it gives you a shot, if guys handle the things that go with being ranked high and continue to get better each and every game. So that's what I'm looking forward to."
Michigan State returns four starters from last year's team, including senior Adreian Payne and sophomore Gary Harris; both turned down the NBA to come back for a shot at a championship.
Harris was named Big Ten preseason player of the year on Thursday after being named the top freshman last season when he was hampered by shoulder injuries for virtually the entire year.
"There's a couple of unique things about Gary Harris which could make him one of the best guards I've ever coached," Izzo said. "One is his mental approach to things. He's a very humble kid, and he's low maintenance. That's odd this day and age. And the second thing, he's a shooter that guards people. And that's odd in this day and age, or any age, in fact, now that I think back to some of the guys that we've had many years ago.
Izzo added of Harris: He's a gym rat. I don't see the celebrity side of it bothering him, as long as he stays healthy, which he's had no issues at all. This kid has gotten better and better and I think will get better and be one of the all time great guards at Michigan State."