The 2015-2016 season looked promising for the Michigan State Spartans before the team’s season ended with a historically disappointing first round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Going into the tournament as the favorite to win it all is no small feat however. Having such a polished regular season took a lot of talent, something Tom Izzo’s rosters have never lacked.
The 2016-2017 installment to Izzo’s roster is projected to have some amazing talent but will look elsewhere to find it following a drastic roster turnover. Here’s a look at how the team will have to replace some of its key departures.
The 14th overall pick in the NBA Draft was one of the most valuable players in the country last season. His value goes further than the numerous national accolades he collected last season however. The 6’ 6” forward stepped up his game during his senior season, playing all three back court positions for the Spartans. After three seasons of being an important piece for the Spartans, Valentine finally broke through and took over games and became the impact player MSU fans hoped he could be.
What the Spartans lose in Valentine is one of the best players in the nation. Versatility, scoring and veteran leadership were three of his most valuable assets that will be difficult to replace in 2016-2017. Having a big body to play point guard was essential for Tom Izzo’s offense. Valentine could drive the ball to the rim and was one of the most aggressive offensive threats in the country.
The Spartans will now turn to a combination of Lourawls “TumTum” Narin and Matt McQuaid to run the point. Narin will attempt to provide the leadership Valentine was known for during his time in East Lansing but will not be able to provide the size.
Since transferring to Michigan State in 2014, Bryn Forbes has been an integral part of the Spartans’ offensive attack. The 2015-2016 season is where it all came together for Forbes, who always seemed to hovering around the perimeter to known down a shot.
Forbes was used perfectly by head coach Tom Izzo. Playing him in 35 games last season Izzo only played Forbes for an average of 28 minutes per game. This may have worked last season with the depth the Spartans had but the Spartans are still losing one of the Big Ten’s best three point shooters. Forbes shot 48 percent for beyond the arc last season in a Spartans offense who was not afraid to chuck it up from deep.
The Front Court
Two more Spartans starters departed the program this off-season in Deyonta Davis and Matt Costello. If that wasn’t enough size to leave, former walk-on senior Colby Wollenman graduated after coming off the bench of Michigan State last year.
Davis departed after his freshman season for the NBA. While struggling to find his way into the starting lineup consistently, he played in all 35 games. Davis was also one of the Spartans top three rebounders and had the second highest field goal percentage on the team.
Matt Costello did it all for the Spartans last season. Registering in the top three on the team in scoring, rebounding and minutes played, Costello left a lasting impression on the team.
The turnover in the Spartans front court could be the key to their season. Replacing a senior starter in Costello and the former five star recruit in Davis will be no easy task. Costello was as steady a player as you can ask for and the only Spartan to start all 35 games in 2015-2016. He will be replaced at center by a promising player in Gavin Schilling who has had injury issues in the past.
For those of you counting at home, the tally is three starters, one rotational starter and former top recruit, and a rotational big man. A national player of the year award, a first team All-American, a first team All-Big Ten and two second team All-Big Ten players. Accolades, talent and leadership have departed. Still the Spartans are projected to be contenders once again because Tom Izzo has reloaded.
The Spartans are bringing it what could be a historic class featuring two five stars and two four stars according to 247Sports. Miles Bridges and Josh Langford will likely start at the two and three from the get go. A top recruit in the state of Michigan, Cassius Winston, will likely find himself in the guard rotation to start the season. The most interesting player is Ohio big man Nick Ward who may be asked to play a multitude of minutes right away.
The overall key to the Spartans season will be replacing established veteran talent with players who were in high school only months ago.