All signs point to a banner year for Michigan State.
The Spartans return five of their core players from back-to-back Final Four squads (Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Draymond Green, Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious) to pair with a heralded group of freshmen headed by guard Keith Appling and center Adreian Paine. Then there’s Tom Izzo, perhaps the game’s best coach during March.
Throw it all together and it’s tough to pick against Michigan State – if not for the summer of distractions.
- Izzo considered the Cleveland Cavaliers job, which turned into a media circus.
- Senior guard Chris Allen, the team’s best perimeter defender and a probable starter, was dismissed in August.
- Junior Korie Lucious got a DUI last month and now is recovering from a small meniscus tear in his left knee. He could be out until November.
- Senior Kalin Lucas is reportedly near full health after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon during the NCAA tournament, but he’ll almost certainly be rusty for the first few months.
Now there’s an assault allegation that could linger. If the injury worries weren’t enough, off-court issues rarely help a season. It’s almost as if Michigan State’s potentially great season needs to pass test after test before the Spartans are really ready to make that Final Four run.
And they better be. The Big Ten promises to be more challenging than ever. Purdue and Ohio State are Final Four contenders, Illinois and Wisconsin are Top 20 good and the bottom dwellers should be respectable. If Lucas and Lucious struggle, it’ll be an issue. But a few hiccups are what the early months are for, and why Izzo gets the big bucks.
By March, a banner year may happen. And this group will have earned it.