The 2016-2017 version of the Michigan State Spartans will look a lot different than last years team. Players have departed for the draft and headed for graduation, leaving the Spartans with major holes on their roster. Still, the general consensus in East Lansing is the Spartans will be just fine thanks to recruiting guru Tom Izzo’s ability to haul in what could be one of his best recruiting classes in history. Having such a mix of talented youth and untested upperclassmen leaves the Spartans with no guarantees.
What will this team look like following the loss of four starters?
The Spartans roster took a big hit following last season. Four players who averaged more than 18 minutes per game have departed from Michigan State’s roster. Only wing Eron Harris remains from last seasons starting rotation of the 2015 Spartans and his playing time could diminish if a promising freshman outplays him.
Regardless of how talented the Spartans recruiting class is, nothing will compensate for the loss of experience and leadership the Spartans will have to overcome. Of the five departed players, four used up their eligibility and graduated as seniors. Only former five star recruit Deyonta Davis left following his freshman season.
The Spartans will not be made up entirely of players who were most recently sitting in a high school history class waiting for the lunch bell. Tom Izzo will have some veteran experience to compliment his highly touted freshman. Harris, Gavin Schilling, Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Narin and Javon Bess will all be either juniors or seniors next season and have some experience. How these upper class men will work with incoming players such as Josh Langford and Miles Bridges while increasing their usual workload will be interesting to watch.
Can Gavin Schilling stay healthy enough to produce in the front court?
The 2015 Spartans had a good amount of depth in their front court. That may have gone by the wayside. Starting forwards Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis are no longer attending the school as well as rotational big man Colby Wollenman. That leaves one capable big man on the Spartans roster, senior Gavin Schilling.
While Schilling has looked like a promising player in the past, injuries derailed his junior season. Schilling missed the first 13 games of the season due to a toe injury. When he returned in time for the schedule to start heating up, Schilling suffered a back injury that limited him for most of the second half.
There is no doubt Schilling can compete in the Big Ten. If his sophomore season is any indication of the player he can be, Michigan State should be confident Schilling can hang with some of the best forwards in the conference. If the Spartans get him to reach his potential, they will need him to stay healthy and give them more than the 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds he provided off the bench during his second season.
How far in will this team go in the tournament?
For the How I Met Your Mother watching Spartan fans, the 2016 NCAA tournament is your “Damn!” moment. It is the moment the makes you cringe when it is mentioned. You will likely take the long way and go through North Carolina when traveling to Florida to avoid the state of Tennessee. The regular season was an overwhelming success before Middle Tennessee State bounced the Spartans in the first round.
Looking at the talent and experience on last seasons Michigan State roster, it is hard to believe the heavily favored Spartans were upset. The overwhelming them of this season will be adjusting quickly and getting the talented freshmen up to speed. Recruiting stars have never solely won an NCAA title and Tom Izzo knows that.