B1G Basketball Preview: Michigan State
Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans look to have another great season after last year’s final four finish and 27-12 record. The Spartans were expected to have a down year last season, but shocked the nation making a Final Four appearance, which was their first since 2010. Michigan State lost to Duke 81-61 just one game away from the championship.
It is key for seniors Matt Costello, Bryn Forbes, and Denzel Valentine to lead this group expected to have a big year. Last season the trio appeared in all 39 games, Valentine starting each one. Valentine, the 6’5” guard, averaged 14.5 points along with 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game with 35 steals, which were good for third highest. Forbes, another guard, will have to step up his scoring after averaging only 8.5 points per game. Costello, a forward, was third on the team with 202 rebounds and will be vital for the Spartans on the boards this season.
In addition, freshman Deyonta Davis and redshirt junior Eron Harris are expected to have an immediate impact on the Spartans and add to their already deep roster.
This season, after what was expected to be a down year last year, the Spartans have lost some strong players but are still returning a key core of players. Branden Dawson and former captain Travis Trice are two big losses for the Spartans. Trice averaged a team-high 15.3 points per game and also lead the team in assists last season. He was also a third team Big-Ten honoree and was named East Region Most Outstanding Player after leading the Spartans past Louisville. In Dawson’s senior season last year he was named second team All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Defensive Team averaging 11.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Offensive/ Defensive Notes
Last season Michigan State was ranked 15th in the nation in offensive efficiency and were one of the better shooting teams in the country. The Spartans ranked 29 in three-point percentage so there’s no question they relied on the deep ball to propel their offense. Bryn Forbes and Denzel Valentine, who were both in the top three in three point attempts on the team last season, will both have to work to maintain the offensive scoring prowess.
The Spartans, as usual, have a tough non-conference schedule facing several teams that will be in the top 25 discussion. Their matchups against Kansas, Florida as well as Louisville will be key games and they could face four or five who will make a run at the national championship. Michigan could be looking at one to four losses in out of conference play.
On the flip side, Michigan State got somewhat lucky with their Big Ten schedule. With two games against Penn State and Rutgers as well as one game against both Minnesota and Nebraska, the Spartans should have six wins. In addition, the Spartans host Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State so 10 wins is could certainly be a possibility. The Spartans could win anywhere from 8 to 14 conference games this season.
Coach’s Hot Seat
Izzo, in his twenty-first season as the Spartans head coach, shouldn’t have to worry at all for his job. Izzo’s extensive résumé includes one national championship, seven Big Ten regular season championships and four Big Ten tournament championships. Additionally, he has led the team to thirteen sweet sixteens and nine elite eights.
Izzo certainly has a large recruiting presence in Michigan, but also extends throughout the country and internationally. On this year’s roster “Tum Tum” Lourawls is from Nassau Bahamas.
The Spartans have a tough road ahead but certainly have the depth to be successful. Their non-conference schedule could take a toll in addition to the always tough Big Ten, but if they are able to steal a few big games both in and out of conference play, they will find themselves in a very good spot.
If the Spartans play up to expectations and can get their offense started they should find themselves a tournament berth and Forbes and Valentine should have a huge presence on the hardwood.
Brandon Pelter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.