One month from today, on November 6th, the 2023-24 Michigan State basketball season begins. Since you are reading an article on TOC, I know you already are aware that MSU will be going into the season with incredibly high expectations, up to and including winning Tom Izzo’s second national championship. There really is so much to be excited about when looking at this roster and its potential. Naturally, with the start of college basketball season being next month, the articles and posts from the national media are already starting to pick up. And naturally, with the expectations surrounding the MSU team, the Spartans are a regular part of these preview pieces. So here is a look at some of the pieces that have been going around these past few days.
Let’s start with some praise that the MSU roster has been receiving. Over the past few days, Big Ten Network’s own Andy Katz has been releasing his rankings of the top ten players at each position. As of this writing, he has not yet put out his listing of centers, but he has done positions 1-4 and a couple of Spartans make appearances. Remember, these are national rankings, not just a conference list. Most impressively, Katz gives fifth-year senior Tyson Walker the distinction of being his #1 shooting guard. There is obviously some great talent on this list, and to see Tyson at its top is truly exciting.
There are a couple of surprises among Andy’s other lists, one inclusion and one omission. We know that MSU has one of its best ever recruiting classes coming in, including a pair of five-star guys in Jeremy Fears and Xavier Booker. Interestingly, it is another member of this freshman class, high-flying Coen Carr, who makes it onto one of these positional lists, coming in at #9 amongst the small forwards.
Let’s hope he can deliver on these expectations being bestowed upon his shoulders.
The exclusion I referred to was that of A.J. Hoggard, who did not crack Katz’s list of top ten point guards. Interestingly, there are three other B1G PGs who do appear on this list as well as Tyler Kolek, the PG of Marquette whom MSU vanquished in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Let this all be fuel for Hoggard’s fire.
Back to our incoming freshmen for a moment, their jersey numbers were announced recently. Jeremy Fears will be donning #1, Gehrig Normand will be #7, Xavier Booker will be #34, and Coen Carr is #55. There needs to be some sort of speed limit joke there for Carr. For Booker, there are some famous 34s in the history of basketball including Shaquille O’Neal with L.A., Charles Barkley in Phoenix, and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. Hopefully Xavier earns himself a seat at Table 34 amongst those legends eventually.
Looking at the team as a whole, Jamie Shaw over at On3 put out his Big Ten power rankings earlier this week. Early consensus is that MSU and Purdue will be the class of the conference this season, and that is the case here as Jamie gives MSU the nod for #1. There have also been a few national power rankings released, and MSU is in the top ten of all of them, and in the top five of most. No surprises there.
So let’s get to some actual events surrounding this team. Coach Izzo and the basketball team held their annual preseason media day this past Tuesday where Izzo and all the players were giving quotes to the press. To no surprise, someone did ask Tom about this team’s possibility of winning it all. He did not respond directly to that subject, but still did give a strong opinion of the squad.
“I like this team because I like the makeup of the personalities. I like the fact we have young talent and old guys that have been through the wars. I like the fact that we have depth. I like the fact that we have size. I like the fact that we can play small or big. I like a lot of things right now…”
Furthermore, when asked about preseason rankings, Izzo was even more willing to express his belief.
“I have seen us ranked in the top five, top ten, and people have asked me the question of ‘Do you like that?’ And I always say ‘No, I love it. I love it.’ We’re not 1997, we’re 2023, and the program has earned the right to be a quality program, so if it’s not ranked there that upsets me more.”
He wants and expects the attention.
Members of the roster, on the other hand, were more willing to say the “N.C. word”. Malik Hall, last year’s sixth man, clearly believes it is a very real possibility.
“I’m just really excited. I’ve got an opportunity to help lead some of the younger guys and hopefully win a national championship. That’s really what I’m most focused on.”
The next event in MSU’s preseason agenda is one week from today, October 13th, with Midnight Madness. For those of you in the East Lansing area or willing to travel, doors at the Breslin will open at 8 PM. There will be opportunities to get signatures until 9 and then the festivities begin at 9:30. This event is for both the men’s and women’s team.
Let your countdowns begin. I personally am incredibly excited for this season and am looking forward to getting to cover as many games as possible in person. I already have a place to stay in Phoenix for Final Four weekend. Let’s hope Tom and the team can meet me there.