year it seems that a team or two defy the odds and improve after losing a large
chunk of their previous year’s production.
This year, it’s Michigan State and Georgetown that are thriving despite losing
their star players. Both entered this season with low expectations, yet each are
currently atop their conferences and ranked in the top 10. Michigan St was
unranked in the preseason AP poll, while Georgetown did not even garner a single
Even with Kalin Lucas – the Spartans’ fifth all-time leading scorer and sixth
all-time leader in assists – Michigan State suffered through a forgettable
2010-11 season. Ranked second in the nation to begin the season, the Spartans
suffered through a 19-15 campaign that was reportedly rife with dissention and
discontent, and they were ousted in the NCAA Tournament’s first round by UCLA a
season after a run to the Final 4.
Despite also losing Durrell Summers, Korie Lucious and Delvon Roe, whose
degenerative knee problems forced him to miss his senior year, Michigan State
has won 14 straight games and is sitting atop the Big Ten standings after a
63-60 overtime win at Wisconsin Tuesday.
Spartan coach Tom Izzo predicted before the season that, despite being omitted
from the pre-season Top 25, Michigan State would return to the top of the Big
Ten this season. His reasoning? Better leadership and cohesion.
Draymond Green – MSU’s one returning star – has been great, but it’s been some
lesser-known players who have come through for the Spartans. Keith Appling, who
scored 25 points as Michigan State knocked off previously-unbeaten Indiana last
Wednesday, is averaging 12.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds at the point.
Freshman Branden Dawson is regularly scoring in double-figures, and Valparaiso
transfer Brandon Wood has provided the Spartans the outside threat they lacked a
Similarly, Georgetown entered last season with high expectations only to fizzle.
With Chris Wright and Austin Freeman in the backcourt, the Hoyas jumped out to
8-0 and 11-1 before finishing 21-11 and suffering an embarrassing loss in the
first round of the NCAA Tournament – 74-56 to VCU – for the second straight
Without Wright, Freeman and Julian Vaughn (38.3 ppg between them), Georgetown
was unranked and picked to finish 11th in the Big East. A seventh-consecutive
trip to the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III was considered a longshot.
Instead, Georgetown has won 11 straight to improve to 13-1 – with only a
four-point loss to Kansas keeping it from an unbeaten record – and the Hoyas are
tied with No. 1 Syracuse at the top of the Big East after an upset win over
Louisville, a home victory over Providence, and shocking come from behind win
over Marquette last night.
Jason Clark was expected to carry Georgetown this season – and he has been
outstanding. But it’s the role players and newcomers who have made the
difference in D.C.
Hollis Thompson’s stats are up across the board, including a 47.1 field goal
percentage. Former highly-touted recruit Henry Sims is beginning to reach his
potential in his senior season, including a team-best 3.7 assists from the
center position. Sophomore guard Markel Starks has increased his scoring average
from 1.5 a year ago to 10.2 this season, and freshman Otto Porter, who had 14
points and 14 rebounds in last week’s win over Louisville, looks like a star in
Talent is essential in college basketball. As Michigan State and Georgetown are
proving, unity and continuity can sometimes be just as important.