I'm a sucker for these sorts of offseason exercises: ESPN has ranked Michigan State as the eleventh most successful college basketball program of the last 50 years. MSU comes in four spots higher than when MSNBC went through the same sort of exercise four years ago. It helps that the timeframe is constrained somewhat since, with apologies to Jumpin' Johnny Green, MSU didn't have much going for it prior to the 1970's. Other changes since 2008: Two additional Final Four appearances and three more Big Ten titles.
We can't be too offended by any of the programs that will rank ahead of MSU (working off the MSNBC rankings): Kentucky, UNC, Kansas, UCLA, Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Arizona, Syracuse, UConn. MSU could potentially get past those last 4 teams to the #7 spot if Tom Izzo continues to rack up Final Fours and maybe gets another National Championship over the next 10 years or so. The four teams ranked just below MSU by ESPN are Georgetown, Michigan, UNLV, and Ohio State.
Can't quibble much with the all-50-year starting five ESPN picked. I'd go with Cleaves over Respert, but they've got the right eight-man rotation identified. Just for funsies, here's an expanded all-time team:
|G||Mateen Cleaves||Scott Skiles||Kalin Lucas|
|G||Steve Smith||Shawn Respert||Charlie Bell|
|F||Magic Johnson||Morris Peterson||Jason Richardson|
|F||Draymond Green||Jay Vincent||Raymar Morgan|
|C||Greg Kelser||Paul Davis||Antonio Smith|
I cheated by making Magic a forward. Despite Izzo's reputation as a great rebounding coach, MSU continues to be guard-intensive program in terms of its all-time greats. A lot of the decision making for individual spots hinges on how much you value team success (Izzo-era guys) vs. individual success (non-1979 Healthcote-era guys). I may have come down a tad too much on the team/Izzo side in filling out the third team; by the numbers, Terry Furlow should probably get Morgan's spot. My eyeballs have only seen the Steve Smith era and forward (plus the 1979 team in highlights).
Other honorable mention players: Eric Snow, Drew Neitzel, Sam Vincent, and Andre Hutson. And Jumpin' Johnny would get a spot if we went back past the 50-year window.