Michigan State: Is the Spartans' Luck About to Run Out?

Michigan State Spartans Men's College Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Michigan State: Is the Spartans' Luck About to Run Out?

Over the past 15 years, Michigan State has been synonymous with the words NCAA tournament.

Beginning with a 22-8 record during the 1997-98 season and a trip to the Sweet 16, the Spartans have made the NCAA their annual destination each March. Included in this 15-year stint are three 30-win seasons, six wins or shares of the Big Ten Conference title, one runner-up tournament finish (2009, to North Carolina) and one championship (2000, over Florida).

Sooner or later, the Spartans will have to skip an NCAA tournament, right?  Sooner or later, a vastly improved Michigan program may become the predominant program in the state, right?

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is in a precarious position entering this season, one he has rarely been in during his years in East Lansing. Kalin Lucas, the team’s scoring leader at 17 points per game, graduated. Durrell Summers, the team’s third-best scorer at 11.6 points per game, also played his last game for the Spartans in March. Korie Lucious was suspended in January for “conduct detrimental to the team”, and he transferred to Iowa State in March. Delvon Roe’s recurrent knee problems brought an end to his career in September. That leaves Draymond Green, who was the second-leading scorer a year ago at 12.6 points per game, and Keith Appling (6.4 points a game) as the two top scorers returning to the team. The problem is Green is the only double-digit scorer coming back. That means the Spartans will have to lift their game in a hurry.

Thankfully, the MSU non-conference schedule will give the newly revamped Spartans a little breathing room. After a pair of really tough contests in mid-November against North Carolina and Duke, the MSU schedule lightens considerably. Only a trip to Gonzaga in mid-December looks to be anything close to a tough contest.

So the Spartans shouldn’t worry, right?

Take a look at the record MSU posted a year ago. The Spartans finished 19-15 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This came on the heels of a 28-9 campaign in 2009-10 that included a trip to the Final Four. A nine-win slide in the standings doesn’t go unnoticed by a lot of college basketball experts.

Michigan State may need to pump its game up quickly. If any coach can do it, Izzo is definitely the one. Otherwise, the Spartans may need to get used to the initials NIT come March.


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