As the confetti fell last Monday on the newly crowned North Carolina Tar Heels my mind began to think about next season. The college basketball season ended for the Michigan State Spartans two weeks prior to the battle between North Carolina and Gonzaga, and it was finally time to move past this season and look forward to the future. Boy does the future look bright in East Lansing.
One way to begin moving on to next season is by pouring through the many different way-too-early rankings. It’s become a tradition for nearly every premier sports media source to post their way-too-early rankings for the next season once the final buzzer rings in the National Championship game. While these rankings normally change and have no real importance it’s still fun to take a look at where your team ranks.
Over the years, Michigan State has become a regular on these types of rankings and this year is no different. The Spartans are expected to return a majority of their core, including the freshman trio of Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford. There’s also still a chance that Spartans leading scorer Miles Bridges returns for a second go-around as well. If he comes back then you can surely push Michigan State up even higher on each of these rankings.
To help all of you Spartan fans I’ve compiled a list of each of the major media sources’ way-too-early rankings and laid out where Michigan State falls on those lists. I’ve also thrown in my two cents on the extremely early look at Michigan State and where I see them falling as of right now.
So without further ado let’s take a look at where Michigan State ranks amongst the way-too-early rankings for the 2017-18 season.
Comment on ranking: “Even if star NBA prospect Miles Bridges fulfills his one-and-done potential (and he seems to be genuinely weighing the options, so stay tuned), three freshmen that arrived with him last summer will form the core of a really good Michigan State group for years to come.” —Eamonn Brennan
-CBS Sports: 6th
Comment on ranking: “Tom Izzo won’t be relying too heavily on first-year players again -- regardless of whether Miles Bridges returns. All those freshmen will be sophomores. So Michigan State will be the favorite in the Big Ten and a real threat to make the eighth Final Four of Tom Izzo’s career.” —Gary Parrish
-Sports Illustrated: 8th
Comment on ranking: “Tom Izzo shored up his size issues by signing two big recruits, 6’11” Jaren Jackson and 6’9” Xavier Tillman. If 6’8” freshman Nick Ward bypasses the NBA draft, that would give the Spartans an imposing, albeit young, frontcourt.” —Seth Davis
-FOX Sports: 4th
Comment on ranking: “If (Bridges) does come back the Spartans might be the title favorite, and even if he doesn’t they still might be favorites in the Big Ten. Tom Izzo’s club welcomes back virtually their entire roster, including sophomores Nick Ward, Josh Langford and Cassius Winston.” —Aaron Torres
-Sporting News: 5th
Comment on ranking: “Expect next season to be the reward for all the bumps and bruises Tom Izzo’s team experienced during this learning season. The Spartans will have size, they’ll have shooting and they’ll have ball-handling.” —Ryan Fagan
-Yahoo! Sports: 11th
Comment on ranking: “If Bridges surprises all of us and stays in East Lansing, the Spartans are a top-10 team. Even if he jets for the pros, though, Sparty might be the Big Ten favorite.” —Jeff Eisenberg and Henry Bushnell
-SB Nation: 12th
Comment on ranking: “With Miles Bridges about to be a lottery pick, the biggest issue for Michigan State is going to be finding at least one bona-fide star out of a large group of players who have been solid, but not spectacular so far in their careers.” —Mike Rutherford
There a few key things I’m taking away from each of these rankings: Michigan State is the favorite in the Big Ten entering next year, the Spartans have to find someone to step up as their star if Bridges leaves, and the post play will be a strength and no longer a weakness for this team.
Michigan State ranks as high as 4th and as low as 12th throughout these rankings. So, ultimately, the common thought is that Michigan State is going to be pretty solid next year and possibly elite if they put it all together. Each of these rankings has the Spartans as the highest ranked team with Minnesota and Northwestern normally following so it’s fair to say the Spartans will enter next year as the favorite.
Another big thing from these rankings is the assumption that Bridges is heading to the pros. Of course, that’s probably a fair projection, given that he’s widely projected as a lottery pick if he enters the NBA Draft. But he has yet to declare and that proves he is torn on this decision. If Bridges does decide to return to East Lansing, then you can expect Michigan State to be a top five team entering next year.
The final thing that stood out to me is the magnitude many are putting on the incoming freshman class and how it’ll have an instant impact for the team’s play in the post. Jackson and Tillman’s names came up often throughout these rankings — combined with Ward’s return, redshirt senior Gavin Schilling and junior Kenny Goins — as reasons to excited about the post play next year. Those five will create a solid rotation of big men for Michigan State in 2017-18 and flip the script on this past year.
Overall, I see Michigan State perfectly falling at 10th amongst these rankings. They return some important pieces but as Rutherford of SB Nation said they need to find a star to rely on if Bridges leaves. They’ll have their options to pick from and if they do find that guy next year then they could have a special year. I like the pieces this team has and agree with many of these writers that they have the potential to be elite next year as long as it all comes together.
Now let’s remember to take all of this with a grain of salt. Next season is still eight months away and you never know what can go down in the offseason. But for now things look good for the Spartans in 2017-18 as the favorites in the Big Ten.
I’m sure I missed some other media websites’ way-too-early rankings so feel free to share those with us in the comment section below! The more the merrier!