Michigan State Spartans
Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
2007-08: 27-9, 12-6, 4th
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
The Spartans may lose their best player in Drew Neitzel, but there was a ton of young talent surrounding him last year. Now that talent is a year older and ready to take over the team. Expectations are high, as they always are in East Lansing, but this group has more pure talent than Coach Tom Izzo has had in a few years. It seems that the Spartans have had to overachieve to reach the Final Four in years past, but that will not be the case this time.
Neitzel tallied 13.9 points and 4.0 assists per game and was the leader of the team. He would take all the clutch shots and that leadership will be the most difficult thing to replace. The absence of Drew Naymick is a cause for concern in the frontcourt. Naymick started 23 games last year and was by far the best shot blocking threat on the team. Without the 6-10 center, the Spartans interior defense may suffer.
Delvon Roe is the highlight of Coach Izzo’s recruiting class. The Spartans have been lacking a tough-minded big man and Spartan fans hope Roe is the answer. The 6-8, 220 pounder is a high energy player with a surprising amount of athleticism. His aggressive style of play could be exactly what this team needs. Draymond Green is a versatile forward who can bang down low or handle the ball on the perimeter. Green will have to spend some time on the bench at Michigan State, but he could emerge as a big time player in the years to come. Redshirt walk-on Austin Thornton could provide a shooting spark off the bench eventually, but he will not play a big role on this team any time soon. Korie Lucious could play a much larger role in the backcourt right away. The 5-10 point guard could be the next in line of great floor generals at Michigan State and could see some action off the bench this year.
Who to Watch:
However, the Spartans do not need Lucious to contribute this season. The team already has Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton who can run the show. Lucas is a scorer first and a point guard second, but he did dish out 3.8 assists last year as a freshman and only turned the ball over 2.0 times per game. And if Lucas struggles with turnovers, Walton will get the job done. The senior is not flashy or a big scorer, but he is a steady floor leader and a great defender. Chris Allen could step into a starting role as a sophomore after averaging 6.3 points per game a year ago. Without Neitzel around, the outside shooting hopes of MSU fall on Allen’s shoulders. Durrell Summers, yet another talented sophomore, will be asked to play a bigger role off the bench. With players like Isaiah Dahlman and the newcomers, the Spartans do not lack depth on the perimeter.
There is no lack of depth in the frontcourt either. Small forward Raymar Morgan led the team with 14.0 points per game a year ago and will have to take over some of the clutch shooting left behind by Neitzel. Morgan will also be asked to take over the leadership role in Neitzel’s absence. Goran Suton and Marquise Gray are the likely starters up front. Suton has the size at 6-10 and 245 pounds and is also a decent scorer who can step out and hit the mid-range jumper. However, it is Suton’s ability to rebound that makes him such a quality player. Gray is the player who has the ability to take over some of the defensive responsibilities, but he is also a relatively consistent scorer around the basket. Add Roe, sophomore Tom Herzog and senior Idong Ibok to that list and the Spartans have more depth than any team in the conference and that is a good thing for a team that likes to run.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Kalin Lucas, Sophomore, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Chris Allen, Sophomore, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Raymar Morgan, Junior, Forward, 14.0 points per game
Marquise Gray, Senior, Forward, 4.3 points per game
Goran Suton, Senior, Center, 9.1 points per game