Michigan State Spartans 2016-17 College Basketball Preview

Better days are firmly in the past for the rebuilding MSU Spartans, who sit at +2200 to win the 2017 NCAA Title at oddsmaker Bovada.
Better days are firmly in the past for the rebuilding MSU Spartans, who sit at +2200 to win the 2017 NCAA Title at oddsmaker Bovada.

Michigan State Spartans

Title Odds: +2200

Odds c/o Bovada

The Michigan State Spartans are rebuilding. They return no players who averaged 10-plus points per game last season, and last season was a one-and-done failure in March. It will not stop pundits from betting on Tom Izzo working brilliance in March, but perhaps following the lead of college basketball oddsmakers might be wiser: MSU is +2200 to win the 2017 NCAA title, and calling it anything other than a long shot would seem naive at this point.

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Nevertheless, Izzo still sets the bar at a Big Ten championship and return to the Final Four. This is Michigan State, after all, and he believes the talent level on his team is higher than it is given credit for. “Goals are the same,” Izzo said. But expecting anything less of a championship-caliber coach would be silly, too, really.

The Spartans bring in some talented freshman to rebuild the program, and Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford headline that class of guys seeking to replace Denzel Valentine and the departed rotation players from a season ago.

One major source of help could be Gavin Schilling Jr—but only if he is healthy. Last season the 6’9” forward faced turf toe, but the Spartans need his rebounding and defense this season. He is also the 12.5 point per game scorer, the highest of all returning players. He will have to avoid foul trouble, take care of his body, and flat out step up.

The team needs the senior’s leadership and it needs more offense from him. If he provides that, this team is better than expectations. Walk-on Kenny Goins is another good defender who can face up on offense, and his knee injury last season really hurt the Spartans. That is two frontcourt key players with health issues who must stay on the court. Moving on…

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UNLV transfer Ben Carter could be a big help after averaging 8.6 points and six rebounds last season for the Rebels. He, too, though suffered a knee injury last season. Freshman Miles Bridges is a major athlete and adds that dimension off the bench. Nick Ward is much the same, and he is a good shooter with nice touch. Izzo calls him “Baby (Zach) Randolph.” High praise.

In the backcourt the Spartans will have Eron Harris who averaged 17 points per game as a sophomore at West Virginia three years ago. He hit 43.9 percent from three last season and has bulked up with some muscle.

Lourawls Nairn must acquire a jumper, but he is a great athlete who can play top-notch defense. He has improved his shot, but a foot injury slowed that progress some—MSU needs to see further progression in his offensive game. He averaged just 2.8 points per game in 18 minutes a night, which is as close to an offensive non-factor as you will see from a 5’10” guard. Freshman Cassius Winston is a smart player who will fit well for Izzo. His defense lacks, but he has plenty of defenders around him to see that it improves this season. Langford could be an immediate impact freshman, a guy who is ready to play at a high level due to his physique.

Matt McQuaid adds a valuable shooting stroke and is a 40-plus percent three-point shooter. Kyle Ahrens brings more defense off the bench, too. The backcourt has plenty of depth, but it will absolutely need Harris to be the scorer he was at West Virginia with a frontcourt not stacked in offensve potential.

All in all, this is what it is: a major program with a legendary coach in a rebuild. They will earn a bid in March, people will predict “Cinderella,” and they will so do one season prematurely. This team needs some growth from its youngsters and a lot of maturation. Izzo can work miracles, but to expect MSU to overcome the inexperience on its roster is asking a bit much, even of him.

Get in on the winnings for 2016-17 NCAA and NBA basketball. We’ll be dominating the books as usual, so get in on the gravy!

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