Michigan State Spartans
Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
2006-07: 23-12, 8-8, 7th (t)
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Michigan State. The Spartans lost four starters and did not have a senior on the roster. Still, they had some impressive wins and made the NCAA Tournament under the tutelage of Coach Tom Izzo. This year experience is not a problem and with some talented newcomers headed to East Lansing, Coach Izzo will finally have the depth he needs to run the offense Spartan fans expect to see.
With no seniors on last year’s roster, this will be a short list. Maurice Joseph has opted to transfer to Vermont after averaging 16.8 minutes per game last year. Joseph is a decent shooter, but never really found his spot on the Spartans team. With a trio of topnotch guards coming into the program, Joseph would not have seen as much playing time this year.
Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas are those excellent guards heading into the program. Depth on the perimeter will suddenly go from a major problem to a major asset. Summers is the type of wing Coach Izzo loves. He is stronger than his 6-5, 195 pound frame looks and he will help out on the glass. Summers is not the best of the shooters amongst the newcomers, but he is the best scorer. Once he adds a little girth, Summers will be a great player in just about every facet of the game. Until then, he will do a lot of scoring. Allen is the shooter of the bunch. He is a decent athlete, but will likely be a shooter off the bench until his defense improves. Lucas is the point guard of the future and he will get to the basket more than most Spartan point guards of the recent past. The minutes may be hard to come by right now, but Lucas has the talent to contribute this year. Even walk-on Austin Thornton will provide some quality depth if injuries should become a big problem in the backcourt again. Thornton had some offers from smaller schools and the 6-5 sharpshooter officially puts an end to the Spartans having a slim bench. Tom Herzog redshirted last season and the seven-footer will try and work his way into the rotation. He is a surprisingly decent athlete for his size and can do some scoring in the paint. With a season to hit the weights, Herzog should be better able to handle the opposing big men under the basket.
Who to Watch:
Drew Neitzel, Travis Walton and Raymar Morgan handled a majority of minutes at the three perimeter positions. Neitzel, the lone returning starter from the 2005-2006 season, stepped up big time and led the team on and off the floor. The 6-0 guard averaged 18.1 points and dished out 4.3 assists. He was so successful shooting because Walton was able to take over a majority of the point guard duties. Walton is not much of a scorer, but he is a great defender and will find the other scorers on the team. Walton is the top returning assist leader in the conference with 5.5 per game. The numbers may not be that high this year with the newcomers expected to take some of his minutes, but that depth is a good thing. Morgan had a tremendous freshman campaign and quickly developed into the team’s second scoring option. He will not shoot the three ball often, but at 6-7 he is a good rebounder and a tremendous slasher. Along with the departed Joseph, Isaiah Dahlman was forced into action as a backup on the wing. He will find minutes harder to come by this year with Summers, Allen and Lucas clamoring for quality playing time.
The Spartans were hoping one of the big guys would step up and become the third consistent scoring option. At times it was Goran Suton, at other times it was Marquise Gray, but nobody was a consistent scorer. Suton had the best season, averaging 9.3 points and a team high 6.7 rebounds. Gray is a tougher, stronger player who will spend most of his time in the paint, unlike Suton. Those two will probably be starting, but Drew Naymick and Idong Ibok each started 11 and 16 games, respectively, last year and will again play a big role for Michigan State. Naymick and Ibok are the shotblockers of the group and Ibok’s giant wingspan makes him a solid defender against big men that could push around Suton and Naymick. The Spartans are coming off two pretty bad seasons, at least according to the high expectations of the Izzo era. MSU has not reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in a couple years, but this group is looking at the third weekend and the school’s fifth Final Four in ten years.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Travis Walton, Junior, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Drew Neitzel, Senior, Guard, 18.1 points per game
Raymar Morgan, Sophomore, Forward, 11.7 points per game
Marquise Gray, Junior, Forward, 6.8 points per game
Goran Suton, Junior, Center, 9.3 points per game