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Some Notes On Michigan State

When Michigan State eased Jud Heathcote out, no one knew that Tom Izzo would
do such an incredible job in his place.  He's proven to be a brilliant
coach, and Michigan State is understandably ranked quite highly this
season.  Yet when you look at their roster, you have to stop and think.

It's not a question of talent.  It's a question of experience. They lose
three key players, of course, and return Andre Hutson, Charlie Bell, and Jason
Richardson, who caused a huge buzz this summer . They also return Mike Chappell,
who has frankly not been very impressive since transferring from Duke to
Michigan State.

Here is the class breakdown:

  • Frosh: 4
  • Sophs: 4
  • Juniors: 0
  • Seniors: 5

Of the seniors, Charlie Bell is likely the most respected and has very solid
stats.  Mike Chappell didn't assert himself much last year.  Andre
Hutson had 10.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg. Brandon Smith had negligible stats, as did
David Thomas.

Of the sophs, Jason Richardson is expected to have a breakout year. 
Anogonye has potential but didn't do much at all statistically, though he could
be an important defensive presence.  Ballinger was negligible.  Mat
Ishbia had no meaningful statistical impact.

Now the logical thing to do is to throw the stats out and say, come on,
they'll have Bell, Hutson, Richardson, and freshmen big man Zach Randolph and
point guard Marcus Taylor.  By all accounts, Randolph was superb this
summer, and Taylor has a big rep as being incredibly mature.  But still:
that's a likely starting lineup of two seniors, one soph, and two
freshmen.  

Our guess is that Michigan State's season depends largely on a) how much
leadership the seniors provide, b) how quickly the two star freshmen step up,
and c) how the various role players fill roles and how that affects
chemistry, and also how the program deals with the spotlight. We're pretty sure that they are a long-term power under
Izzo.  But our guess is that this year is a transition year, and while
they'll be a Top 10 team, it's awfully early to pencil them in to the Final Four
- particularly with such a young group.  Last season's team was
magnificent, but it wasn't a one year process: you'll remember that the nucleus
of that team lost two very tough games to the Elton Brand led Duke team. 
The games, including one in the Final Four, were very competitive, but Duke
ultimately held on - and you'll remember that team just crushed people. Cleaves,
Peterson and company learned from games like that and got better.

This year's team, as a group, won't have that kind of experience.  It's
very possible that Izzo could get them back to the Final Four, but this group
has a lot to do to match what last year's team did.

Next year, though, is a different story...