2015-2016 ITH Season Preview: Michigan State Spartans

  • 09/29/2015 7:26 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 look at the Big Ten with the Michigan State Spartans.

After an uninspiring regular season, Michigan State did what they’re best known for in March – win. A 7-seed in the NCAA tournament, the Spartans reached their 9th Final Four last year, Tom Izzo’s 7th with the team in his 20-year career as head coach. MSU has made the tournament 18 straight years, and will have the talent to make that 19 this year.

The Spartans graduated guard Travis Trice (signed free agent deal with the New York Knicks) and forward Branden Dawson, who was selected 56th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA draft, from a team that finished 27-12 a season ago.

Senior Denzel Valentine has a chance to become a star. The guard averaged 14.5 points per game last year and is the perfect combination of scorer and distributor. He will be paired in the backcourt with Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, Bryn Forbes and transfer Eron Harris from West Virginia. The Spartans should have one of the better backcourt tables in the conference with speed (Nairn), shooting (Forbes), scoring (Harris) and a fantastic playmaker in Valentine.

McDonald’s All-American Deyonta Davis, Kyle Ahrens and Matthew McQuaid (247Composite top 100) join Harris as newcomers to the program.

Sophomores Marvin Clark Jr. and Javon Bess figure to play meaningful minutes at forward. Each played about 11 to 12 minutes a game last year, but Bess struggled with injuries. Now Clark is out six to eight weeks with a foot injury.

Big man Gavin Schilling will anchor the inside, with help from Matt Costello. Both played roughly equal minutes, and despite Schilling starting last season, Costello actually posted better numbers in both points and rebounds. Davis should also see plenty of time at the four spot.

Izzo’s teams have always been built around a tough man-to-man defense, and through players who know how to run his system. Even though Trice and Dawson will both be missed, there are plenty of other talented players waiting to step up. The Spartans will be tested early with contests against Kansas, Boston College, Louisville and Florida on the non-conference portion of their schedule.

Bottom Line: Michigan State has arguably the best coach in college basketball, and when you combine that with the talent that’s on this roster it will mean yet another NCAA tournament appearance and potential for a deep run. There may be rough patches during the regular season, but as the season goes on Michigan State should be ready to peak and hit their stride in March.

Quotable: “I’m excited about the non-conference schedule that we’ve put together. The first thing that jumps out at me are the Louisville and Florida games at Breslin Center. We are excited to bring some of college basketball’s top programs to our home fans this season. It’s part of a continual quest to schedule great non-conference games home for our fans that have been so loyal and give us one of the best home court advantages in the nation… Playing Kansas in the Champions Classic will be a terrific early-season test… When you combine the non-conference schedule with what I expect to be a deeper Big Ten in the upcoming season, we will certainly be tested early and often throughout the year.” – Izzo to msuspartans.com in August.

PreviouslyRutgers, Penn State, Northwestern, NebraskaMinnesotaIowaIllinois, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue

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  • Arch Puddington

    Pet peeve of the day: when players with nicknames are listed by their given names and then their nicknames in parentheses. No one calls him LouRawls “TumTum” Nairn, just Tum Tum. No one calls him Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, just Yogi. And it’s not just ITH or print media that do this; the announcers on the B1G Network do it as well.

    Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring you down.

  • TomJameson

    IU plays Michigan State only once, but it’s at their place. At least it’ll be in the middle of Feb and IU should be well into their rhythm (but so will Mich St.). It’s could be a very tough game.

  • SCHoosier

    Defense and rebounding always get MSU through its usually tough pre-conference schedule. IMO Valentine is an underrated streak shooter who can carry a team thru key periods of a tough game. If the other shooters show up..Izzo will have the Sparties right there when it counts.

  • And One

    Ugh. These guys again.
    I work with a huge Sparty fan, and every year I hear him say, well gee, not so sure about this bunch–don’t know if (insert name of former IU recruit) can contribute right away, don’t know if (insert name of NBA first-rounder) is ready to be the go-to guy… And every year I tell him to shut up, I ain’t worried about these guys, Izzo will have them playing at a high level by March.
    I am so very tired of their being so consistently good. My hope is that this year our players take turns on who absolutely goes off on an opponent, and that at Breslin it’s Yogi, who has a better nickname than Tum Tum.

  • TomJameson

    I’m thinking that is exactly what will happen with IU. There will be the consistent scorers like Yogi, JBJ, Troy, RJ, TB, (insert you favs here) … but then one of these guys will explode for 30 points, and that could be anybody. IU has a TON of offense, and nobody will be able to shut them all down.

  • Young Hoosier

    They’re going to be good again. Could you even be surprised if they won the B1G?

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    Izzo will have them right there again, best coach in the league, i wish CTC had the fire Izzo has as far as getting in a players face when he needs it.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    hate it when we play there. i still remember all the whistles they got at the end of that game in ’12. still not sure how we won that one!

  • marcusgresham

    “No one calls him Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell….”
    Chuck Crabb does!

    What about horse trainer D. Wayne Lukas. No one but media calls him “D. Wayne,” they just call him “Wayne.”

  • Arch Puddington

    Chuck Crabb does indeed call him KevinYogiFerrell, and it is just as out place there as it is everywhere else.

    I guess my point is that no one calls him that in his personal life. It’s just a media thing, including the otherwise fantastic Mr. Crabb.

  • HoosierStuckInKY

    I wonder if anyone calls him Charles Chuck Crabb….

  • Zach

    In addition, I believe it’s on Valentine’s day. Fate tells us Denzel’s going to drop 30 and hit a buzzer beater like he did last year.

  • TomJameson

    But Yogi will have his 35, and JBJ will have his 25, and NZ will hit 9 3-pointers, and TB will have 10 blocks and 18 rebounds.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Can’t wait for that to happen!!!!!!

  • IUBizmark

    Pet peeve: Score is Team A: 77 to Team B: 76.
    Announcer: “Team B is now within one point of taking the lead.”
    Within means inside. Team B is not inside/less than one point. They are exactly one point behind.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.