Top to bottom, Michigan State looks like a Final Four team this year. The Spartans have star power (i.e. Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson), role players, a deep bench and one of the game’s best coaches.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any concerns as we approach the upcoming season.
Like every team in the Big Ten — and really the entire country — Michigan State has some areas of concern heading into this season. Their worries or downfalls might not be as substantial as other teams across the league, but they are certainly still there.
Perhaps the biggest concern I have about this team entering this season is the turnovers issues during last season. However, I went into detail about that in another recent story so I’ll leave that out of this. Plus I am optimistic that issue will be fixed this season.
But what else should Spartan fans worry about? It varies from consistency from a few players to possible player drama to managing expectations. So with that here are my three biggest concerns about the 2017-18 Michigan State Spartans.
Three Questions for Michigan State:
1. Consistency from Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid
Back in May, I took an in-depth look at Michigan State’s backcourt for 2017-’18 and one of the key things that stood out was the consistency — or should I say lack of — from Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid this past year. With Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis both gone, those two will be the primary shooting guards and outside shooting threats for Michigan State this year.
And both need to improve their game-to-game consistency.
Last year, Langford led the Spartans in three point shooting at 41.6 percent and averaged 6.9 points per game. McQuaid wasn’t far behind at 35 percent from behind the arc and 5.6 points per game. But the issue was stringing together strong performances from the two.
Additionally, McQuaid never recorded back-to-back games of 10 or more points, and Langford only did such twice. The two also combined for nine scoreless games. That simply won’t cut it this year with both expecting to have bigger roles. Improving on game-to-game consistency for both of these players will be key for the Spartans.
2. Managing Extremely High Expectations
One of the last times Michigan State entered a season this highly touted, they fell flat on their face. That was in 2010-’11 when the Spartans were pegged as the No. 2 team in the preseason and they struggled to just make the NCAA Tournament. However, it was always said there was team drama that played a role in that disappointing season.
Another year that comes to mind was 2013-’14, which also featured a preseason top five ranking after Gary Harris and Adreian Payne decided to come back. That team did reach the Elite Eight, but it was a roller coaster of a season before they finally pulled it all together late in the year.
With this still being a relatively young team — I project all five of the starters will be sophomores or younger — this year could be very similar to 2013-’14. I wouldn’t be shocked if they take some time to pull it all together and don’t reach their full potential until February or March.
With high expectations comes plenty of pressure so how this team handles that pressure will determine if they raise any banners by the end of the season.
3. Position battle between Winston and Tum Tum
Maybe this is nothing but the possibility of a sophomore taking a senior’s starting spot just sounds like drama. And that’s what could happen this year with Cassius Winston most likely taking over as the starting point guard.
Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn has been considered a leader for Michigan State for years so like I said this could be nothing. One would think a leader of his nature would simply want the best for the team, but Nairn has started 65 of 102 career games — which includes 30 of 35 a year ago. Winston only has 5 career starts, but it is assumed he’ll become the starting point guard this season because he’s more of an offensive threat.
So is there going to be any drama there? We’ll probably never know since that kind of thing normally stays in house, but if there’s one thing that derails a team’s chances at a championship it’s player drama. Just look at the 2010-11 team.
Two of my three concerns could turn out to be nothing, but the consistency of McQuaid and Langford is certainly something we need to keep an eye on. I don’t know Tum Tum personally, but based on things you read it sounds like he isn’t a guy who would pout about not starting and let it affect the team.
And when it comes to managing expectations, you hope Tom Izzo has learned from previous teams and won’t let that overcome this young bunch. However, these are still three concerns I have about this highly touted and talented team, and each one could easily make or break a Final Four run.