Tomorrow, it will be exactly two months since our Spartans walked off the court at Lucas Oil Stadium. Because of the transfer rumor that's refused to (1) die or (2) become a real, live news story, I've dragged my feet on doing a full-fledged look-ahead post at the team's make-up and prospects for next season (although there was this bit of statistically-based optimism).
Yesterday, Tom Izzo finally named the name (or, at least, replied to a question about the name):
The question mark entering the summer is Chris Allen. The rising senior guard has had clashes with Izzo and it's not clear if the two are on the same page.
"Nothing has happened yet,'' Izzo said. "He's on a short leash. He has some growing up to do. There were times I didn't know if he wanted to be here.''
Chris Allen, it is. Our man Joe Rexrode reviews the bizarreness of the situation:
The interesting thing about Allen (we've talked about this before) is that he so clearly "bought in" last year on the basketball court. He got serious about defending and became reliable on that end. His overall game, including his shooting, made a significant jump. Izzo was gushing about that very transformation the day after MSU's Big Ten title-clinching win over Michigan -- and the day before he announced that Allen was suspended for the Big Ten Tournament game.
So yeah, this is off the court. . . .
Rexrode posits that this is probably as much Izzo's decision as it is Allen's. It's not your traditional transfer scenario. And it doesn't sound like the situation is necessarily going to get fully resolved in the immediate future.
So on to the microanalysis of next year's roster, I say! A projected depth chart with informed guesses as to average playing time distribution in competitive games is after the jump.
|Point||Lucas (30)||Lucious (20)||Kebler|
|Wing1||Allen (26)||Appling (12)|
|Wing2||Summers (26)||Byrd (6)||Thornton|
|Big1||Green (28)||Payne (12)||Gauna|
|Big2||Roe (24)||Nix (8)||Sherman (8)|
(In the long dark days before I started blogging, I used to sketch these projected depth charts out on my desk pad. How did the earth turn on its axis without my musings being tableized and published on the internet?)
(On the topic of Tableizer, I'd liked it noted in the record that I am now using the new official Spartan green of Michigan State University [html
#265142 make that #18453b] in the headers of my tables. Haven't gotten around to asking the SB Nation folks for a revamp of the site's color scheme, though.]
- That's a nice-looking depth chart, no? Both the projected starters and the second team of players are well-rounded five-man groups that fit nicely into specific roles. You've got a total of 14 guys you could play in a pinch--13 if Alex Gauna redshirts. I'm starting with the assumption of an 11-man rotation. That'll get whittled down to 9 or 10 guys at some point.
- I think Draymond Green needs to start next season. If he can improve his conditioning just a little more and get up near 30 minutes/game (he averaged 25.7 minutes/game in conference play this season), then it doesn't make sense to have him sitting a total of 6-7 minutes waiting to get on the court at the beginning of the two halves of each game. Given the large role he will play in the team's offense next season, his minutes need to be distributed as broadly as possible over the 40 minutes in each game.
- How about bringing Delvon Roe off the bench instead? That would allow Tom Izzo to slot a taller player (Nix/Sherman) into the starting lineup and maybe save some wear and tear on Roe early in games.
- I have no really solid basis for making this statement, but I think it might be ideal for both the players involved and the team generally if Kalin Lucas focused more on distributing the ball (something he'll need to show NBA GMs he can do more proficiently) and Durrell Summers became more of the go-to off-the-ball jumpshooter over the full season (like he became in the NCAA Tournament out of necessity this season). Based on the Katz piece, it sounds like Izzo is thinking about big things for Summers as a senior: "He's a real talented guy and with him and Lucas together we can get it rolling,'' Also from the Katz piece: Lucas could be on the court as early as next month playing pick-up ball.
- Chris Allen as the #4 offensive option as a senior should be a nice sweetspot for him (assuming no change in his status on the team, of course). Knock down 3-pointers, make smart decisions with the ball, play defense.
- Korie Lucious will be the most talented sixth man (in terms of minutes played, at least) in the league. And he's a pretty experienced option to be able to bring off the bench now, too: 155 minutes of NCAA Tournament playing time this year.
- Keith Appling will be able to ease his way into the mix in the back court, setting things up for a stater-level role as a sophomore. (Unless Allen does end up leaving the team. Then Appling becomes the second perimeter player off the bench and the pressure for him to produce would jump up a notch.)
- Assuming his recovery from foot surgery goes well, I think Russell Byrd plays as a freshman. You can never have too many 3-point shooters, in the event of a team playing a zone defense in the NCAA Tournament. This is not going to be a save-a-year-of-eligibility-for-later kind of season.
- Tom Izzo will have the luxury of using Adreian Payne as an energy/offensive rebounding guy off the bench--something like how he used Zack Randolph as a freshman. There's more upside than downside to the 12 minutes/game I have Payne down for.
- I'd guess either Derrick Nix or Garrick Sherman emerges ahead of the other (unless Payne isn't ready to play major minutes right away)--but I'm not ready to guess who emerges. I've fudged their projected minutes by splitting them equally.
- I'm assuming no significant playing time for Mike Kebler and Austin Thornton outside of injury-related emergencies. Kebler has certainly shown he can play competently at the point and on defense, but Appling will provide a third scholarship-player option as the primary ball-handler. I think the ship has probably sailed on Austin Thornton being a regular contributor on the court; his statistical indicators all point to a player that exerts maximum effort (8.6 OffReb%) but is physically overmatched (27.1 TO%, 0.0 Blk%, 0.9 Stl%, 6.8 fouls created per 40 minutes).
- As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I think the team will miss Raymar Morgan's versatility more than many fans might realize. While Draymond Green can probably guard a lot of opposing 3-men straight up, I can't see him playing a perimeter spot in Izzo's switch/hedge-heavy defensive scheme. I have the minute distribution at exactly 120/game for perimeter players and 80/game for post players.
Big picture, the 2011 Michigan State team isn't the equivalent of the 2009 North Carolina or 2010 Kansas teams--clear preseason number ones based on an overwhelming amount of returning NBA-level talent. But this MSU team brings back a larger combination of talent and experience than any other team in the country. Duke (Singler/Smith/Irving) and Purdue (Hummel/Johnson/Moore) both bring back more pure ability in terms of their top three players (although not by an insurmountable margin--Lucas/Green/Summers is a pretty good offensive base to work from) but don't have anything close to the depth and experience Tom Izzo will have at his disposal when he looks down the bench.
Expectations going into next season will rightly be higher than they have been at any time in the program's history, outside of maybe the 1999-2000 season. (Looking back, the national championship seems like it would have been a foregone conclusion--but I don't really remember how confident I was about the team's prospects going into the season.) Coming off back-to-back Big Ten championships and Final Four appearances, there's only one rung left on the ladder for this group of players--a second Tom Izzo national championship. If the team doesn't win the national title, it won't necessarily be a failure--college basketball isn't set up for preseason favorites to easily advance deep into the postseason--but it will be a disappointment.
And that's a very good thing, right?