Michigan State had a pretty good year in 2012-2013.
They won 27 games and finished tied for second in a loaded Big Ten despite losing four of their last five games against the five ranked teams in their league. And while Tom Izzo has cultivated a program where expectations run high year-in and year-out, the Spartans managed to make it to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA tournament, which is far from disappointing for a team that entered the year ranked 14th.
The hype surrounding the Michigan State program will be a bit different heading into 2013-2014, however, as the Spartans caught a break and got both Adreian Payne and Gary Harris back for another season. That’s why most preseason top 25s have the Spartans ranked somewhere in the top five, with some slotting them as high as No. 2.
Granted, some of those projections are based on the optimistic outlook that analysts have regarding the development of some of the Spartan players, but according to Izzo, that optimism should end up being rewarded.
“Right now, we’re having the best summer we’ve ever had,” Izzo told Diamond Leung of MLive.com. “There have been more guys in the gym. (Adreian) Payne has been good, and (Gary) Harris is really getting a lot better. (Branden) Dawson I think has made big strides from what I hear.”
Izzo also said that Harris was finally healthy after needing rehab to heal a shoulder injury he dealt with much of last season.
I, for one, am taking this as a sign that the Spartans could end up being better than we thought next season. Tom Izzo is not a guy known for hyperbole. He’s honest, sometimes brutally so, and while his press conferences aren’t completely devoid of coach-speak, he’ll be about as honest and forthcoming as anyone in the business when it comes to his team.
So if he’s saying that “we’re having the best summer we’ve ever had”, than I’m inclined to believe him more than some of his colleagues.
And for the Spartans, having a great summer is crucial for next season, as three of their biggest names have plenty of room to grow. Dawson, who is as much of an athletic freak as you are going to find in college hoops, didn’t have a chance to develop his game at all last summer as he recovered from a torn ACL. This will be his first offseason with a chance to truly get better, and he’s a guy that could really stand to develop some of his basketball skills.
The same goes for Harris, who played football in high school and dealt with a shoulder injury throughout last season. That’s why, as Izzo put it, we didn’t “see the Gary Harris I recruited” last season. With a now-healthy shoulder, Harris has five months to turn himself into that guy.
And Payne? Well, Payne’s always been a prospect with unlimited potential. He started to tap into that talent in Big Ten play last season, and if he continues to develop, his ceiling is as a lottery pick.
Long story short, if Michigan State ever had a time where needed to have their best summer under Tom Izzo, it is this summer.
That’s bad news for Big Ten teams.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.