Michigan State Spartans
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #5
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
Michigan State was a strong favorite during last year’s NCAA Tournament to return to the Final Four. However, their opponent in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, number 15 seed Middle Tennessee State, had different ideas as the Blue Raiders shocked the Spartans 90-81 to send Michigan State home early. There will be a bit of reloading process for head coach Tom Izzo this season, but make no bones about it the Spartans will be a team to be reckoned with all season long.
2015-16 Record: 29-6, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tom Izzo
Coach Record: 524-205 at Michigan State, 524-205 overall
Denzel Valentine was one of the best guards in the country last season and he will be sorely missed. Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds per game and shot 44.4 percent from three-point range to go along with his 85.3 percent from the foul line. Bryn Forbes was another big time clutch shooter for Michigan State, knocking down 48.1 percent of his shots from three-point range as well. Matt Costello was a big time rebounder of the basketball, collecting 8.2 rebounds per game and his ability to control the glass will need to be replaced quickly as well. Deyonta Davis, Javon Bess and Colby Wollenman were also regular contributors.
An excellent freshmen class will need to produce right away to keep the Spartans rolling along as an elite program. Miles Bridges is the best NBA prospect of the bunch and has gotten off to a great start in the exhibition portion of the preseason for Michigan State. Bridges scored 33 points on 12-of-14 shooting in their 93-69 exhibition win over Northwood and showed some flashes of his potential. Cassius Winston is going to need make an immediate impact at point guard. Winston is very skilled at distributing the basketball and has no problem creating his own shot offensively. Josh Langford and Nick Ward are also highly ranked incoming recruits that should provide instant productivity. Langford attacks the basket very well and Ward has a nice touch around the basket with a knack for creating his own shot down in the post. Ben Carter, a graduate transfer from UNLV, will add experience and more options for Coach Izzo in the paint.
Who to Watch:
Eron Harris, Matt McQuaid and Tum Tum Nairn are going to have to have to pick up the slack for Denzel Valentines and Bryn Forbes at the offensive end of the court. Harris has plenty of experience and should be one of the better shooting guards in the Big Ten and the nation this season. McQuaid will need to take a step forward in his sophomore season after showing flashes of brilliance when he got extended playing time, such as when he scored 17 points against Northwestern. Nairn will look to take over some of Valentine’s point guard responsibilities. He has the leadership ability that Valentine had last season. The key for Nairn is going to be his development offensively since he only shot 37.9 percent from the field while playing 18.7 minutes per game.
Michigan State will hit the ground running this season with their schedule. They play Arizona and Kentucky right out the starting gate. Then, over the Thanksgiving weekend the Spartans will take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis, which always has a loaded field of high quality programs. The Big Ten schedule is balanced as they only have to play Maryland once this season right before the Big Ten Conference Tournament, along with always tough road games at Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue. If the freshmen class develops as expected, look for Michigan State to contend for the Big Ten title and hang around the top of the rankings all season long.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Lourawls Tum Nairn, Junior, Guard, 2.8 points per game
Matt McQuaid, Sophomore, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Eron Harris, Redshirt Senior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Miles Bridges, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Kenny Goins, Redshirt Sophomore Forward, 2.0 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.8 (25th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.1 (21, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.6 (13, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.2 (2, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.2 (25, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 43.4 (1, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.9 (63, 7)
Rebound Margin: 11.4 (1, 1)
Assists Per Game: 20.5 (1, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (97, 9)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#31 Miles Bridges
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#11 Milws Bridges
#18 Joshua Langford
#31 Cassius Winston
#37 Nick Ward