2018 Michigan State Spartans Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
How can a season feature 30 wins and feel like a total disappointment? It shouldn't be possible, yet Michigan State managed it last year. They entered the season as the second-ranked team in the country, so expectations were sky high. But their first real test came early against Duke, and they looked surprisingly outmatched in the seven-point loss. And while they lost only twice again in the regular season, those losses came six days apart in January to major rivals Ohio State and Michigan, so they seemed worse than they were. And then Michigan beat them up in the Big Ten Tournament semis, and then they inexplicably lost to a bad Syracuse team in the second round of the tournament. Add in all sorts of off-court distractions that hung with the team all year, and it felt like a miserable year. In fact, if you asked most college basketball fans how many games the Spartans won last year, I am certain the average would be well under 30. This year the slate is wiped clean and expectations are only slightly lower. Can they have a year that looks better in the rearview mirror while being as successful while it is happening as much of last year was?
Michigan State Spartans Additions/Losses
The Spartans lost two players to the lottery - Jaren Jackson Jr. went fourth overall to Memphis, and Miles Bridges wound up in Charlotte after going 12th. Both are obviously freakish talents who will be missed, but the impact of Jackson's departure is much less than it could have been because coach Izzo was never able to figure out how to fully use Jackson - much to the frustration of fans who thought the answer was incredibly obvious. Also gone is Tum Tum Nairn Jr., the tiny guard who was the team captain last year. Gavin Schilling also graduated, though he was not a big impact player last year as he struggled to come back from the injury that cost him the prior season.
The team welcomed a big recruiting class - five players - but it isn't as strong as some the school has had. It wasn't a Top 10 class despite the size, and the top-ranked recruit, point guard Foster Loyer, is only ranked as the consensus 96th overall player and 16th point guard. The other four are power forwards Marcus Bingham and Thomas Kithier and small forwards Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown. Henry is probably the closest of the group to making an impact. But the good news for the Spartans is that they don't need any of them to start right away, so they can grow as they are ready.
Michigan State Spartans Outlook
The likely starting lineup is made up of guys with experience and proven talent but who have yet to show that they are able to play at their full potential. Each is ready for a step forward, but whether it will happen or not in each case remains to be seen. Point guard Cassius Winston is the most complete player on the roster. He is a passing savant, and he is very comfortable running the team. He needs to take over the team and make it his in the absence of Bridges, and he needs to cut down on turnovers. All-American status is a realistic goal, though. Joshua Langford has been solid in his two years but has always looked like he could be so much better if he could figure things out. Matt McQuaid is a strong shooter, but as a senior his ceiling seems limited, and he could stand to find a way to add dimension to his game. Too often he is standing right where you would expect him to be. Big man Nick Ward wrecks things inside but commits too many turnovers and too many fouls. If he can clean up his game, he can be dangerous. And Xavier Tillman was solid as a freshman, but his role was limited, and he needs to step into an expanded role now.
The ceiling for this team is high. But it's a tough team to judge. Winston is likely to have a strong season, and McQuaid probably is what he is. But the other three have upside, but they could also just tread water. The more that Langford, Ward and Tillman can grow and expand their games, the more this team will be capable of. With a bench that isn't as ready or as strong at this point as those starters, it is really going to come down to what the five can do.
Michigan State Spartans Schedule
The team jumps right into the deep end, travelling to Indianapolis to play Kansas to open the season. There is no better test than playing the top-ranked team in the country in the opener. Then it's a few easy games before heading to the Las Vegas Invitational where they will face UCLA and then either Texas or North Carolina in the final. The Tar Heels would obviously be much tougher. Louisville in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is a fortunate draw given the challenges of that program. But a trip to Florida after that is another elite challenge to test the team.
Big Ten conference play isn't as frightening as it was last year as much of the conference has taken a step back - or at least has a lot to prove at this point. The last four games of the season feature two games against Michigan, a team that has had their number lately, and a game at Indiana. If the Spartans are vulnerable, it could be a very dangerous way to head into the postseason.
Michigan State Spartans Futures Odds
The Spartans are the 10th-ranked team in the AP poll, and they are tied as the 10th most likely National Champions at Bovada at +3300.
Michigan State Spartans Predictions
I just don't trust this team. They are going to need a lot from their freshmen, and they need three starters to take a big step forward. The floor is reasonably high, and so is the ceiling. But I am just not that confident that they will get that close to that ceiling. There is a decent chance that they can win the Big Ten again - they are still the best team in the conference. And even if they aren't quite the team they were last year, the conference hasn't improved. But I don't think that their depth or their top side is enough to match with the best four or five teams out there. The futures price isn't horrible, but I don't want anything to do with it.
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