#2 Michigan State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Michigan State Spartans
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
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Michigan State had some ups and downs last season and ended the year with a 20-point loss to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but the expectations are much, much higher heading into the 2017-2018 campaign. The return of Miles Bridges after his superb freshman campaign is the main reason for the high expectations. Bridges, a 6-7 wing, led the team with 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds. He is a consistent outside shooter and one of the best slashers in the country.
2016-17 Record: 20-15, 10-8
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tom Izzo
Coach Record: 544-220 at Michigan State, 544-220 overall
Who’s Out:
Eron Harris is the big loss for the Spartans. The 6-3 guard averaged 10.4 points per game and was second to only Miles Bridges in three-pointers made with 43. Alvin Ellis III averaged nearly 20 minutes per game during the 2016-2017 campaign. He too was a good outside shooting and also averaged 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds. Little used Matt Van Dyk is the only other departure. Harris and Ellis are significant losses, but MSU has plenty of options ready to step into the void.
Who’s In:
Jaren Jackson highlights another talented group of newcomers for Coach Tom Izzo. Jackson, a 6-11 forward, will immediately add another dimension to the frontcourt. He can stretch the defense with his shooting ability and score in the paint. He is also a superb defender. Fellow incoming freshman Xavier Tillman will add more options to the frontcourt. So will UNLV graduate transfer Ben Carter. Carter is a superb talent, but injuries have limited his playing time. In 2015-2016, he averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds with the Rebels. Walk-ons Jack Hoiberg and Brock Washington will add a couple new faces to the backcourt.
Who to Watch:
Bridges is surely the star of this team, but there are a slew of talented players around him. Lourawls Nairn is a great leader on the floor. He is not an offensive threat, but Nairn dished out 3.6 assists per game while committing just 1.1 turnovers. Cassius Winston can handle the ball too. As a freshman last year he averaged 6.7 points and 5.2 assists mostly off the bench. Joshua Langford is another promising sophomore who saw plenty of playing time as a freshman. He proved to be a very consistent shooter, but still needs to develop his overall game. If that happens, he could easily become a double digit scorer. Matt McQuaid had some moments as a sophomore last season, but he had a disappointing season due to some nagging injuries. If he can stay healthy, the 6-4 guard should be in for a big year.
Final Projection:
The frontcourt is immediately better because of the newcomers, but Kenny Goins and Nick Ward are back too. Goins was a part-time starter as a sophomore in 2016-2017 and should provide quality rebounding and defense off the bench this year. Ward has emerged a very productive forward. He averaged 13.9 points and a team high 6.5 rebounds as a freshman and is ready for a big sophomore season. His production may be hindered by the newcomers and the return of Gavin Schilling from injury though. Schilling is not going to score much, but he will help out on the defensive end and in the rebounding department. And those are the two areas Michigan State must improve if they are going to win the Big Ten. The Spartans ranked fifth in the conference in rebounding margin, which is unthinkable by Coach Izzo standards. With more toughness in the frontcourt, this is a group that can do more than win the Big Ten, they can win it all.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Lourawls Nairn, Senior, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Joshua Langford, Sophomore, Guard, 6.9 points per game
Miles Bridges, Sophomore, Guard, 16.9 points per game
Jaren Jackson, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Nick Ward, Sophomore, Forward, 13.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.9 (202nd in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.7 (81, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.0 (46, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.0 (37, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.8 (129, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.3 (69, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.0 (279, 12)
Rebound Margin: 3.5 (71, 5)
Assists Per Game: 16.9 (15, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.0 (264, 13)
Madness 2018 NBA Draft Rankings:
#7 Miles Bridges
#10 Jaren Jackson
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#7 Jaren Jackson
#87 Xavier Tillman