EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ Michigan State junior guard Drew Neitzel was named First-Team All-Big Ten by the leagueâ€™s coaches and media, the Big Ten Conference announced on Tuesday, March 6. Neitzel is the first Spartan to earn first-team all-league accolades since Paul Davis in 2004. Spartan sophomore guard Travis Walton was named to the All-Defensive Team, and forward Raymar Morgan was selected to the All-Freshman Team. Both the All-Defensive and All-Freshman Teams are selected by just the league coaches. Neitzel was MSUâ€™s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.
“I am very excited for Drew,” said MSU head coach Tom Izzo. “He has come a long way to be named First-Team All-Big Ten. He really is having a special season. What I like is that he has earned every honor that he has received because he puts a lot of hard work into his game.
“There isnâ€™t a more deserving player on the All-Defensive Team than Travis Walton. He is our emotional leader and has led a defense that not only is one of the very best in the country, but also among the best all-time at Michigan State. Iâ€™m pleased that Raymar was selected to the All-Freshman Team. He certainly established himself as one of the top freshmen in the league. If he had not missed those seven games due to injury, he probably could have earned a spot on one of the three all-conference teams.”
Neitzel finished the regular season averaging 18.3 points per game, ranking fourth in the Big Ten. In conference games, he ranked third in scoring (18.3 ppg). He leads the conference in free-throw percentage (.884) and 3-point field goals made (3.19 pg), and ranks among the leaders in minutes played (2nd, 35.26 mpg) and assists (6th, 4.10 apg). He scored 20 or more points in 15 games, and averaged 25.8 points against the top two teams in the league, Ohio State and Wisconsin. He was selected as the Big Tenâ€™s Player of the Week three times (Nov. 20, Nov. 27 and Feb. 26) and was named National Player of the Week by ESPN.comâ€™s Andy Katz on Feb. 26. Among his other accolades, Neitzel was chosen to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason All-America team, and is one of 22 players who will appear on the final national ballot. He was also selected to the NABC All-District 11 team.
Joining Neitzel on the all-conference first team are Iowaâ€™s Adam Haluska, Ohio Stateâ€™s Greg Oden and Wisconsinâ€™s Alando Tucker. Purdueâ€™s Carl Landry earned first-team honors from the leagueâ€™s coaches, while Ohio Stateâ€™s Mike Conley Jr. was selected by the conference media. Tucker was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. Ohio State took the rest of the awards, with Thad Matta being named Coach of the Year and Oden chosen as Freshman of the Year by the media and coaches. In addition, the coaches named Oden the Defensive Player of the Year and Daequan Cook Sixth Man of the Year.
Walton spearheaded a Michigan State defense that leads the conference in scoring defense (56.3 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.378) and 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.308). He led MSU with 34 steals (1.1 spg), but more importantly, his defense frustrated many opponents, making life dificult for some of the premier perimeter players in the league. A tough competitor, Walton also could defend small forwards in the post. MSUâ€™s scoring defense ranks third in the nation, and is the lowest at MSU since the 1951-52 squad allowed 56.0 points, while the field-goal percentage defense ranks fifth in the nation and is the Spartansâ€™ lowest since 1957-58 (.343).
From the start of the season, Morgan established himself as one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten. He was the first freshman in Spartan history to score in double figures in each of his first six games. He is currently MSUâ€™s second-leading scorer at 11.2 points per game. He missed seven games in December and January with a shin injury. Since returning to the starting lineup in the fifth game of the conference season, he is averaging 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. He has been even more productive down the stretch, averaging 13.5 points and 5.3 rebounds over the last six games. On the season, he has scored in double-figures in 18 of his 24 contests.
PROPS TO MATT LARSON, MSU SID!