2014 Michigan State Spartans Predictions and NCAA Basketball Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 10/16/2014
In Tom Izzo's first 19 years as Head Coach at Michigan State, every senior class had been to at least one Final Four. That streak ended last year as the 2013-14 Michigan State Spartans lost in the Elite Eight to the eventual National Champions from Connecticut. Last year's Michigan State team was loaded with talent, and their top three players from that team are gone. This year's team isn't going to be the national powerhouse that last year's team was seen as going into the season. At the same time, who in their right mind would count out a team coached by Izzo?!
Michigan State plays in a very tough Big Ten Conference. The conference may be down in college football, but it's the cream of the crop at least as far as depth when it comes to college hoops. There won't be many easy games once this team hits the Big Ten schedule. Michigan State always does a good job scheduling some tough early-season games that test the team so they will be more prepared when the time comes for conference play. With a much younger team this year, expect Izzo and his coaching staff to focus on development early in the year as they point toward their ultimate goal of winning the Big Ten.
2014 Michigan State Key Losses and Additions
Michigan State lost three guys who were the heart and soul of this team. Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, and Keith Appling are all gone. Harris led the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game, and Payne was just behind at 16.4 per contest. Appling was third in scoring at 11.2 points per game. Payne averaged 7.3 boards per game and was one of the most versatile stretch forwards in the country. Appling led the team in assists, and he was a vocal leader for the team. Harris was a member of the first-team All Big Ten team last season.
Junior Bryn Forbes should start in his first year with the Spartans after transferring from Cleveland State. Many expected him to have to sit out this year, but the NCAA surprised by deeming him eligible to play right away. Lourawls Nairn was one of the highest-recruited point guards in the nation, and this freshman will see plenty of time. Javon Bess and Marvin Clark are raw, but they will be key players moving forward.
2014 Michigan State Backcourt
The immediate eligibility of Forbes helped the Spartans in a big way. Losing both Appling and Harris left the team thin in the backcourt, but Forbes is a sharpshooter who will provide a spark right away. He shot 42 percent from beyond the three-point line last year. Travis Trice will be the starting point guard. Trice has played a lot for the Spartans in his first two years at the school, but he'll take on a much bigger role this season. He's a great long-range shooter, but he'll have to get a little more aggressive at getting in the lane. Nairn could be the future face of the program at the point guard spot, and he'll likely get more and more playing time as the season moves along.
2014 Michigan State Frontcourt
Branden Dawsen is only 6-foot-6, and he was recruited as a guard, but he'll probably be the Spartans power forward much of the year. Dawsen's toughness in the paint is nothing to scoff at. Despite playing on a team with Payne last year, Dawsen was the leading rebounder for Michigan State in grabbing more than eight boards per game. His combination of quickness and strength in the post allows him to be a tremendous defender. Dawsen played great in March last year, and Izzo is counting on him to be a team leader this year. Denzel Valentine is probably the second-best player on the team. Valentine has a great skill set, but he does need to cut down on his turnover rate. Matt Costello will start at center for Michigan State. The Spartans don't normally lack in depth down low, but they are definitely thin in the interior this season.
2014 Michigan State Spartans Futures Odds
Michigan State is set at +5,500 to win the NCAA Championship, according to odds from Sportsbook.ag. That is a good example of the fact that Michigan State still gets some respect because of their coaching staff and long-term success, but they aren't even close to being one of the national favorites this year like they have been in many years in the past.
2014 Michigan State Spartans Predictions and NCAA Basketball Picks
Michigan State has the least amount of talent they have had in quite a few years. Their lack of size and depth in the frontcourt is alarming. It's tempting to pick a major drop off for the Spartans. I probably would if someone else were on the sidelines. As it is, Izzo is among the very best coaches in the nation. Michigan State is unlikely to win a deep Big Ten this year, but they aren't going to be a pushover, either. I'll call for Michigan State to reach the Big Dance but fail to advance to the second weekend.
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