Izzo using break to get Michigan State rotation set
East Lansing — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo hasn't been happy with his rotation this season, but not all of it can be controlled.
A foot injury just before the season to freshman Javon Bess threw things off, followed by an ankle injury to Alvin Ellis in the season opener, a broken hand for junior Bryn Forbes and a broken wrist for senior Branden Dawson.
Add in a lingering illness for junior Denzel Valentine, and Izzo has been playing with, as he calls it, some "bizarre lineups."
But coming off Sunday's overtime victory over Northwestern, one in which Izzo came away disappointed with the Spartans' effort, there are bound to be changes. And as Michigan State (12-5, 3-1 Big Ten) prepares to head to No. 11 Maryland on Saturday, Izzo is using the time to tinker with who is on the floor and when.
"I'm never set on anything with starting lineups," he said Monday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference.
"Last year, they were revolving like a good door. I think we need to get a rotation down, that is what I'm really set on. It's not the easiest thing, but I definitely need to get a rotation down."
There have been some adjustments in recent games, with senior Travis Trice coming off the bench last week in a win over Indiana in favor of freshman Lourawls Nairn. But that was a one-game change.
The bigger issue for Izzo is avoiding lineups where he has few scoring options. That could lead to Bess starting and Forbes coming off the bench.
With everyone getting closer to 100 percent, that could come to fruition against the Terrapins, a team that beat the Spartans in double overtime to open conference play.
"I think if we get everyone back — though we don't have everyone back," Izzo said. "Both Ellis and, more importantly, Bess have not been able to practice. He practiced more the last week, but that doesn't make up for what he didn't have those seven weeks (while recovering from foot surgery).
"I'm looking at it. I'm working on it. It's gotta happen, I just don't know how fast it's gonna happen."
Michigan State remained on the outside looking in in the Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll. Victories over Indiana, Iowa and Northwestern helped Michigan State pick up 67 points in the latest AP poll released Monday, but it wasn't enough to crack the Top 25. Michigan State also remains unranked in the coaches poll.
Wyoming, one of three new entries into this week's AP Top 25, holds down the last spot in the poll with 71 points, followed by Ohio State with 70 and Michigan State.