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What do MSU Basketball’s recruiting misses mean?

The Spartans have whiffed on a couple recruits in the last few days. How much will it hurt them and what’s next?

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The last two days haven’t been GREAT for the 2017 Michigan State basketball recruiting class.

Tuesday night, it was Brandon McCoy heading to UNLV. Wednesday night, it was Mark Smith committing to Illinois. Before that, it was Blake Harris and Greg Elliott heading to Mizzou and Marquette, respectively. If those weren’t enough for you, the tea leaves aren’t looking too good when it comes to long time Spartan target Brian Bowen ending up in Green, either.

In a vacuum, those events coupled with MSU’s “down” year — a second round exit, oh no! — look a bit ominous. But this situation requires something that has become increasingly elusive in the age of hot takes and instant gratification — perspective.

While missing out on targets the caliber of Bowen, McCoy and Smith is never ideal, you have to consider the roster as currently constructed, where those players would fit and the other options they had.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll start with McCoy. The five star forward is an incredible talent who is intent on being one-and-done. He’s more than capable of being such, but next year’s Spartan front court is not exactly a great environment for someone with those aspirations.

Would there be minutes for McCoy? Undoubtedly. You don’t keep a guy like that pinned to the bench but the team already boasts a deep and talented group of bigs. Instead of being “the guy” at a place like UNLV, McCoy would have had to compete with returnees Nick Ward, Gavin Schilling and Kenny Goins and newcomers Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman for time and touches. He’s probably better than most, maybe all of them, but ask yourself, if you wanted to launch your draft stock as high as possible, which way would you lean?

As for Brian Bowen, he’s basically an MSU legacy and could play a key wing role should he come to MSU but, again, is intent on being a one-and-done. Before Miles Bridges announced he was going to return for his sophomore season, the fit was logical, but now, not so much. Could he back up Bridges and Josh Langford and have a really nice season? Sure, but would he get the same amount of touches that are available at places like Creighton, Texas or DePaul? The amount of touches someone who intends to call campus home for only a year would require to showcase his full arsenal? Probably not. Again, if you’re set on being in the NBA a season from now, what would you do?

NCAA Basketball: Youngstown State at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the guards. The one-and-done angle no longer applies with these three, but they still want, and frankly deserve, minutes. With Langford, Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid in place for at least the next two years, Tum Tum Nairn around for one more, and guard Foster Loyer already committed to the 2018 class, they’d probably get more of them much quicker at another school.

With Harris, it isn’t really clear how much interest there was from the beginning, so it’s hard to get worked up about missing out on someone who the staff was never openly in love with. But, unlike Harris, it’s clear Elliott is a guy MSU wanted. However, he had been recruited by Steve Wojciechowski and Marquette for some time and it’s hard to fault him for staying true to that staff and chasing more immediate and significant playing time.

MSU showed up late on Elliott, but were even later on Smith, only making a real push once it became clear Elliott had made up his mind. This one hurts a bit more because even though Izzo was behind the first wave of suitors, he did show up before huge programs like Duke and Kentucky, both of whom showed interest down the stretch, and it seemed like this was close to a done deal after his official visit to East Lansing. Ultimately, a chance to play close to home for a hungry new coach looking for a signature recruiting win led Smith to the Illini. As benefactors of both the “close to home” and “hungry coach” logic this very offseason, Spartan fans can hardly complain. Case in point...

Would it have been nice to land any combination of these guys? Absolutely. Don’t get that twisted. The difference is that because of the position Izzo has put his team in, none of those misses are even close to backbreaking for the Spartans’ chances.

Had UNLV missed on McCoy or Illinois missed on Smith — local-ish kids who will instantly be one of, if not the, best players on their teams — THAT would have been backbreaking.

Another thing to consider: the common thread throughout those recruitments was that each player wanted to come in and play a sizable role right away. The fact such talented kids looked at MSU’s roster and decided to choose another school says a lot about the team’s immediate future.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Michigan State vs Miami Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

For all the talk of who Izzo “missed” on, people seem to be forgetting three key pieces of information.

1) MSU can still add at least one impact player to this class. There are a vast number of transfers, both graduate and otherwise, available and in the past few years Izzo has shown he is open to adding those types of players — Brandon Wood, Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris all come to mind. MSU has to be an intriguing situation for a grad transfer looking for one last crack at a deep march run or a player looking a year down the road when minutes and shots will be more readily available.

2) Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman are Spartans. Just because they didn’t commit right at the deadline doesn’t change the fact that, per Rivals, Jackson Jr. is the second highest rated recruit EVER signed by Izzo (Shannon Brown finished #3, Jackson finished #6), and Tillman will provide the type of functional depth MSU would have killed for a year ago. These guys, especially Jackson Jr., should have a serious impact on next year’s team.

3) Miles Bridges is back. He may not be a freshman but, in a way, the Spartans bringing him back was just like landing the top recruit in the nation. To ignore his return to East Lansing is to completely miss the point. It is because he is back that the Spartans are one of the most talented teams in the country and can afford to not land these great players. It is because of him that there is an almost obnoxious minutes crunch in the front court. Is it because of him that 2017-18 may be the best chance Tom Izzo has ever had to raise a second banner. Not one of the recruits mentioned above could have done those things for this MSU team.

On top of all that, the other core members of last year’s exciting young roster — Winston, Langford and Ward — are all back and led by a freak in Bridges. These types of situations do not arise often.

MSU may not be on the hottest of streaks recruiting-wise. They could use another complimentary depth guard and may have more holes to fill the year after next, but no matter which players are or are not added from here on out, the 2017-18 roster is loaded with talent and Izzo is still at the helm. It’s hard to get mad about that.