2009-10 record: 28-9 (14-4), tied for first in Big Ten
Lost to Butler in Final Four
Coach: Tom Izzo, 364-146, 15 years
Last NCAA miss: 1997
The good: Few teams boast as much balance or as much NCAA tournament experience. Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe, Draymond Green, Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers are gunning for their third straight Final Four, a feat MSU accomplished 10 years ago as well. They’ll be aided by a dynamite recruiting class, headed by center Adeian Payne and guard Keith Appling, both of whom figure to play prominent roles.
Oh yeah, they also have Tom Izzo. No coach has been to more Final Fours since 1999.
The bad: Injury woes will be an issue to start the season, and is the reason why they’re slotted at No. 2. Lucas reportedly is tip top after tearing his Achilles’ tendon, but expect Izzo to proceed with caution when it comes to the former Big Ten player of the year. Lucas’ backup, Lucious, is nursing a small meniscus tear in his left knee and could be out until late November.
Freshman guard Russell Byrd may be headed for a redshirt season, while Payne rehabbed a shoulder injury during the summer. Their best perimeter defender, Chris Allen, was dismissed during the summer, which means Lucas and Lucious can’t afford to be a step slow.
Also, the Spartans remain a formidable rebounding force, but their defense slacked last season. That won’t fly in the brutally tough Big Ten.
The unknown: Is Summers a budding star or the nation’s most hot-and-cold player? The 6-4 senior skywalker is capable of breathtaking moves and could led the Spartans in scoring, but he’s just as likely to disappear for long stretches. He’s never been an efficient scorer, which is a problem because he’s also the team’s best 3-point shooter.
Summers has to stretch opposing defenses and do his best to slash to the basket. That’s asking a lot for a guy who’s often indifferent on offense.