2016-2017 ITH Season Preview: Michigan State Spartans

  • 10/07/2016 7:40 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our Big Ten team previews with the Michigan State Spartans.

It’s no secret Tom Izzo lost one of his best groups of seniors after last season. The Chicago Bulls drafted forward Denzel Valentine in the first round, guard Bryn Forbes signed with the San Antonio Spurs and center Matt Costello with the Atlanta Hawks. In addition, forward Colby Wollenman is now enrolled in medical school at Vanderbilt.

The Spartans also lost one-and-done forward Deyonta Davis, who was drafted in the second round by Boston and landed with the Memphis Grizzles.

So who is left in East Lansing?

Izzo is out with the old, and in with the new. The new being Izzo’s highest rated class of freshmen. All four players are ranked in top 45 of the 247Composite for the class of 2016.

Drawing most of the pre-season attention and hype is forward Miles Bridges. He is explosive, powerful and the Spartans beat out Kentucky to land him. Second is shooting guard Joshua Langford, a top 20 recruit and McDonald’s All-American. The Spartans also welcome Jordan Brand All-Star point guard Cassius Winston and Ohio big man Nick Ward. The 6-foot-8 Ward is a power forward who plays seeking contact, rather than avoiding it. All four are expected to play immediately.

In addition to the stellar freshman class, the Spartans also return a strong group of contributors from last season’s 29-6 team.

Guard Eron Harris is Michigan State’s leading returning scorer at 9.3 points per game. Harris, an Indianapolis native, shot close to 44 percent last season on 3s. Senior guard Alvin Ellis III had ups and downs and fell into Izzo’s doghouse at times last season, but he could carve out a bigger role in 2016-2017.

Senior forward Gavin Schilling is expected to be fully available this season after a foot injury slowed him a season ago. Sophomore forward Kenny Goins is recovering from an off-season knee injury. Sophomore sharp shooter Matt McQuaid had successful surgery for a double sports hernia.

Graduate transfer Ben Carter had another injury with his left knee over the weekend and is out indefinitely. Carter had just recovered from tearing his ACL while at UNLV nine months prior. MSU’s senior point guard Tum Tum Nairn missed time with foot problems, but will be responsible for handling a leadership role either as the starter or as Winston’s backup.

Bottom Line: MSU has the toughest start to college basketball its program has ever seen. On Nov. 11, they face Arizona in Hawaii, Nov. 15 against Kentucky in New York City and then to the Bahamas to play three games (potential opponents are St. John’s, Baylor or VCU, and Louisville or Wichita State). Then, they go to Durham to play Duke on Nov. 29. This challenging slate should tell Izzo plenty about his team before conference play begins. If MSU can stay healthy, handle the schedule and manage to get some key wins early, it should be another season at or near the top of the Big Ten standings.

Quotable: “We have a couple of what I call great players. And a lot of very good players. In those very good players, there is not a lot of separation. That is good and bad. It is going to be more difficult to figure out who to play. The other thing is, when you are playing 1s against 2s, we haven’t had a one or two, but when you are playing five guys against five guys, you have a situation where the other guys is defending really well, so nobody looks as good offensively at times. So, that is going to take some time, but we have 40 days.” –Izzo in a press conference before MSU’s first practice of the season.

PreviouslyRutgers, Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, Maryland

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  • And One

    “Man, I hate those guys,” says And One. But he says it with as small smile, shaking his head. Different from when he say the same thing about PU, which he does with as scowl and a spit.
    Respect for Iz and his program, but I am soooo sick of those guys. Loses a bunch of great players and looks like a FF team. I hope they whip UK and Duke, and then when we beat them it will be that much sweeter.

  • TomJameson

    Izzo really is a great coach. I’m sure he coaches to win every game, but his end goal is the NCAA. I don’t think he really minds losing a few games in the preseason, as long as that makes his team better for the B1G season. Most of the time, he has his team peaking at the right time. They are going to be a tough out in the later part of the season, when all those freshmen start to click!

  • VegasHoosier

    Izzo plays real teams pre-Big Ten and goes to the Final Four a lot. Crean plays Cupcake City and has been once…..a long time ago.

  • Bill Graham

    I hope MSU losses every game this year and Izzo goes back to the sewer he crawled out of. These guys are no #4 on my hate list.

  • dwdkc

    I know the freshmen are highly touted, and Bridges and Langford will be a load. But when you lose your 3 best players, all polished vets, one of whom was the best player in the country, you won’t be as good. Maybe at the very end of the year, when I expect them to be very good–but I think that inexperience will take some lumps early in the Big 10. I think Wisconsin is the team for IU to beat out for the title.

  • dwdkc

    Kansas, North Carolina, Butler, Louisville. It’s not MSU’s schedule but there is a lot of quality, nothing to complain about there. The problem is they schedule all 300 RPI teams otherwise, instead of more teams in the middle.

  • pcantidote

    PU, UK and Illinois are 1-3?

  • pcantidote

    This comment is so last year.

  • pcantidote

    This is a whole new challenge for Izzo. I have doubted him before and been wrong. I am sure he will prove me wrong again.

  • VegasHoosier

    7 of the teams we play are rated 270 or worse.

  • SCHoosier

    TI gets pretty much whomever he wants..puts good kids in a great system..pushes hard early and gets results most every year. What else is there to say?

  • pcantidote

    Yep, 7 of the 31.

  • VegasHoosier

    You can’t count the Big Ten games because Crean has no control over those (and aren’t a couple of those teams bottom-feeders too?).

  • MK

    Northeasten, Tennessee Tech, Youngstown state, Miss Valley State, yep those are all power houses.

  • Kevin Miller

    Sewer? He isn’t from Indiana.