It seems like the Michigan State Spartans haven’t made a Final Four appearance in ages. Well, it has been since 2010, but for Tom Izzo, that is ages ago. The Spartans have quite the program in college basketball, but the name only gets them so far.
When you think of Michigan State basketball, you think of Final Fours — six under Izzo — and Big Ten titles — seven under Izzo. Michigan State has been turned into an elite program because of its head coach and that won’t change any time soon.
There have been rumors of Izzo leaving for the NBA, but those were quickly squashed by the man himself and he said he wouldn’t even consider it for a while because the program “has a lot of work to do”, including adding another couple national titles.
With Keith Appling and Adreian Payne graduating this spring, the Spartans will be losing a ton of talent and experience. Appling fell off at the end of the season after a devastating wrist injury forced him to change his game from a scoring point guard to a facilitator while Payne was solid, despite an injury, all year long.
Couple their departure with the possible early departure of Gary Harris and you have a mediocre team, right? Wrong.
It seems like the expectations for the 2014-15 Spartans are drastically lower than in recent years, but that shouldn’t be the case. Sure, the Spartans are losing Payne and Appling and quite possibly Harris, but there is a wealth of talent returning.
Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice were the leaders of the team this year, vocally, and will lead the team next year. Leaders are something Izzo desires and to have two just makes it that much better. Valentine has been compared to Draymond Green — but even more talented and athletic. Trice will be a solid point guard to replace Appling and will have much more of an offensive impact that Appling did to end the season.
Don’t forget that Branden Dawson, the most athletic player in the Big Ten, will likely be coming back — as he’s only projected as a second-rounder at the next level if he leaves early. If Dawson stays, Harris has a decent chance of staying as well — the two might even be a package deal.
Bring back a solid big man with more maturity in Matt Costello, an up-and-coming star in Alvin Ellis III and a deadly three-point shooting redshirt freshman in Kenny Kaminski, and you have a team that’s six or seven guys deep. Add a highly-touted incoming freshman point guard like Lourawls Nairn and talented incoming wing men like Marvin Clark and Javon Bess and you have a deep, talented and young team.
Sure, the Spartans are losing two, maybe three stars, but that’s what great programs do, they reload.
Don’t worry, Spartan fans, despite the low expectations, Michigan State will be back to contend for a national title in 2014-15.
Tom Izzo has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Connor Muldowney is the Content Associate for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.