Three exhibition games have come and gone. AP preseason polls are out. Sitting only behind No. 1 Duke Blue Devils – who they play on Tuesday, Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic – the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans are looking at an exciting season. Here are the Michigan State basketball expectations and predictions for 2017-18.
Michigan State Basketball Expectations
This Michigan State team has a lot to live up to this year due to the surrounding hype of sophomore Miles Bridges deciding to stay another year in East Lansing. Bridges, along with the teams’ top-two recruits, Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr., are a large reason this team stands so close to the top before anyone has really seen what they have to offer against any kind of competitive opponent.
Even though Bridges, Tillman and Jackson Jr. will help lead the team on the court, they certainly are not all of the weapons this Spartan team has. They have fantastic off and on-court leadership in senior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., who has a close relationship with Bridges and helps lead this team in ways that might remind one of how NBA veterans guide young players while they are still on the team. Except for Nairn Jr. is only a senior in college.
Rebounding and turnovers – two of the biggest struggles for the Spartans last year. This is something that they need to get control of early on considering they play Duke, Notre Dame, and possibly North Carolina in the Phil Knight Tournament – all before any Big Ten games are played. Standing near the bottom of all 351 teams in college basketball, they averaged almost 14 turnovers per game.
The rebounding issue should be solved early with no question. This team went from two-ish big men last year in Kenny Goins and Nick Ward to six – Goins, Ward, Tillman, Jackson Jr., Ben Carter, and Gavin Schilling – with an average height of nearly 6’9″ and weight of approximately 243 pounds. If this team doesn’t rebound the ball, they are going to have to answer to Tom Izzo (good luck with that).
The Spartans have a bench with a lot of talent that has had time to develop since last year. Freshmen Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, and Josh Langford all struggled with consistency in their shot-making and overall efficiency from game to game last year. Now that they have had a summer to further develop and compose their game, they have a chance to make a great impact on the Spartans. McQuaid has a promising three-point shot and Winston has had the opportunity to learn from his senior point guard, Narin Jr., to get faster and speed up his decision-making skills on the floor.
McQuaid has a promising three-point shot and Winston – who is the projected starter – has had the opportunity to learn from his senior point guard, Narin Jr., to become faster and speed up his decision-making skills on the floor. Langford could possibly average double-digits. This team just needs a little more stability from the guards.
If Michigan State plays to their strengths and shows the needed improvement from last year, they can certainly win the Big Ten. They have the talent and well-rounded team that is needed to do so.
Then comes March.
And if Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo to wants to bring another National Championship to East Lansing, this is with no doubt the year he can do it.
Embed from Getty Images