During his four years in East Lansing, Matt Costello saw just about everything a basketball player could. From the high expectations of playing alongside NBA talent, to an improbable run to the Final Four – there are few people who are more qualified to assess the MSU outlook. Which is a good sign for Michigan State fans.
“We have the talent, we have the leadership, we have the maturity. It’s just an issue of going out and doing it,” Costello said of the Spartans chances of winning a national championship.
The former Spartans big man and current San Antonio Spurs two-way player has followed the season closely, along with staying in touch with current players. Costello believes this year’s team has what it takes. That feeling is made even stronger by the unusual schedule this year for the Big Ten Tournament.
Costello said that while he believes the conference tournament is important, it’s more important to use as final preparation for the NCAA Tournament than it is to actually win the conference title. For players, Costello said winning the regular season was more important than the conference playoff. During his four years at State, MSU made it to the conference championship game three times, only to find out their NCAA seed roughly an hour later.
This year, however, the entire Big Ten will have an extra week between the end of conference play and the start of the NCAA Tournament. While this has been widely criticized by fans and analysts, Costello said he wished he had that opportunity.
“I think it’s going to be great, especially for a planner like Coach Izzo, a preparer like coach is,” Costello said. “It gives guys an opportunity to rest. Heal any twisted ankles or bum knees before the actual tournament starts. That’s invaluable. I was always jealous of other teams that were able to finish up earlier.”
Once the Spartans do find out who and where they will be playing, the real work starts. Costello said that while the matchups are the most important part of a deep run, he believes this year’s squad can beat teams with almost any style. And while an upset is always possible, Costello said he thinks the juniors and seniors on this team learned from the mistakes of his senior year.
As every MSU fan knows, the 2-seed Michigan State team was shocked in the first round by Middle Tennessee. Despite the miraculous shooting performance by Middle Tennessee, Costello said the best teams need to be able to hold their ground and get the job done.
“Obviously any team can win, you just want to be ready. If a team is having a career night, you want to say good job on your career night, we’re going to get this dub,” Costello said.
Whenever the season does come to an end for Michigan State, Costello said he is ready to welcome Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. to the NBA. Costello, who plays on San Antonio with fellow Spartan Bryn Forbes, has scouted out the two MSU stars and expects them to go early in the NBA Draft.
“Jaren is a special special kid. He looks like an alien out there. He’s just a different type of looking dude. Wit the skillset to back it up. You don’t find many guys built like that.” Costello said he thinks Jackson should get picked in the top three.
Bridges, on the other hand, isn’t getting the respect he deserves, Costello said, and should get picked in the top five. “Despite what Dan Dakich says, he is very skilled.”