Michigan State team capsule: With stars returning, Sparty sets sights on Dallas

Jonathan Daniel

Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne are all coming back to East Lansing, making Michigan State one of the early favorites to make the 2014 Final Four.

Tom Izzo never fails to bring top-level talent to East Lansing, but next year it's the talent he'll bring back that could carry Michigan State to the Final Four in Dallas. The team's top three scorers -- Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne -- have all announced they will return to school to lead a Spartan team that made it to the Sweet 16 in 2013.

Senior Derrick Nix is the only contributor from last year that Michigan State will lose as the Spartans appear to be early favorites to win the Big Ten.

More on this story: The Only Colors

So with a season of high expectations coming, here's everything you need to know about the 2013-14 Michigan State Spartans:

2013 Record: 27-9, 13-5 Big Ten

2013 Postseason: Lost to Duke in Sweet 16

Key Returnees: Keith Appling, Sr., G, (13.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.3 apg), Gary Harris, So., G, (12.9 ppg), Adreian Payne, Sr., F, (10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Branden Dawson, Jr., F, (8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Denzel Valentine, So., G, (5.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Key Losses: Derrick Nix, F, (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Key Additions: Gavin Schilling (C), Alvin Ellis (G)

2013-14 Outlook:

The Michigan State Spartans have become mainstays in the top 10 during the Tom Izzo era and are usually the attractive preseason pick to win the Big Ten. 2013-14 will be no different as the Spartans return their stars in search of a National Championship.

Position-by-position, Michigan State will be a similar team to the one that is coming off a Sweet 16 loss to Duke. The only significant loss will be that of Derrick Nix. The forward nearly averaged double figures and was a constant frontcourt presence. But Michigan State's real big-man threat was Adreian Payne, who has decided to return for his senior season.

Keith Appling will also be a senior as he and Payne try to avoid becoming the first senior class since Izzo took over to fail to reach a Final Four. The Spartans last played on college basketball's final weekend in 2010, when they lost to Butler in the National Semifinals. Appling led Michigan State in assists as a guard last season, but could also score, shooting 41.5 percent from the field. He has also developed a three-point shot that, while nothing special, adds another threat to his game.

But while the senior leadership will certainly be key to the Spartans' success, Michigan State is likely just as thrilled about freshman phenom Gary Harris returning to East Lansing. He put up nearly 13 points per game last year and was the team's biggest threat from distance. He took 158 threes last year and converted 41.1 percent of the time. Harris came to Michigan State as a five-star recruit, ranked 25th nationally by Rivals.com.

There won't be any more five-star guys joining the Spartans next year, but they will add a pair of three-stars in Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis. Schilling, out of Findlay Prep, is a post player who will help fill the void left by the graduating Derrick Nix. Ellis is a guard from Chicago, who picked the Spartans after considering offers from Kansas State, Minnesota and others.

As always, the Spartans won't begin their Big Ten schedule next year until late December or early January, but they will be tested early on. Michigan State will be a host school in the 2013 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, meaning it will likely host two over-matched teams before headed to Barclays Center in Brooklyn along with Oklahoma, Seton Hall and Virginia Tech.

More in College Basketball:

Frontcourt will lead Syracuse in first ACC season

Mich. State's Adreian Payne returns for senior season

Louisville primed for another title run

Rick Pitino gets inked up

Wolverines looking for more in 2014

Who's No. 1? A super early top 25 ranking

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