Week in Review: Mike Moser and Harvard stood out

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Player of the Week: Mike Moser, UNLV

Less than three weeks into the season, its already quite apparent who the most influential transfer in the country is. After seven games, Moser is leading the Rebels in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. He ranks third in assists. In three games last week — wins against Cal Poly, USC and No. 1 North Carolina that pushed the Rebels to 7-0 on the season — Moser averaged 13.3 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 2.7 apg while adding three blocks and four steals. In the win over UNC, he had 16 points and 18 rebounds and helped keep Tyler Zeller and John Henson in check. That should give you a glimpse into Moser’s value for this team.

But its more than that. Moser’s value is in his versatility at the four spot. What UNLV wants to do is spread the floor and create lanes for penetration from the perimeter. Moser’s ability to rebound and defend at the four spot while providing a perimeter threat offensively makes the Rebels a more dangerous and complete team. Moser is probably not the most talented player on this team, but his skill set makes him the most valuable. Now imagine what will happen when he finds a consistent stroke from the perimeter; he’s done this much damage while shooting just 2-17 from beyond the arc.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

G: Evan Roquemore, Santa Clara: Everyone knows about Kevin Foster, but he’s not the only talented back court player for the Broncs. Santa Clara went 2-1 in the 76 Classic — including wins over New Mexico and Villanova — while averaging 22.7 ppg, 8.0 apg and 3.7 rpg while shooting 12-21 from three and 24-25 from the foul line.

G: Kevin Dillard, Dayton: Dillard, a transfer from Southern Illinois, led the Flyers to the Old Spice Classic title with wins over Wake Forest, Fairfield and Minnesota. In the three games, he averaged 15.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.7 spg and 2.3 apg while shooting 51.6% from the floor and 4-9 from three.

F: Eric Griffin, Campbell: Griffin led the Camels to a 2-1 week, including a 16 point win over Iowa, while averaging 23.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 3.7 bpg. He shot 75% (24-32) from the floor, 4-5 from three and also added six steals. Griffin went for 23 points, 13 boards and six steals in the win over Iowa, and then had 29 points and 14 boards in a loss to Creighton. Oh, and he did this.

F: Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The Jayhawks lost the title game of the Maui Invitational to Duke, but Robinson made a statement on the island. He had three straight double-doubles and averaged 17.0 ppg and 12.3 rpg in the three games.

C: Henry Sims, Georgetown: Sims only averaged 13.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.3 apg and 1.7 bpg in a 2-1 week for the Hoyas. But it was the 24 points, eight boards and five assists that Sims notched in an overtime win over Memphis in the fifth-place game.

Bench: Griffin Callahan, South Dakota State (18.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 18 3’s, 3-1 week); Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (25.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 5.7 rpg, Great Alaska Shootout champ); Jason Clark, Georgetown (23.0 ppg, 12-20 3’s); Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (34 points, five assists, five steals vs. Utah Valley State); Orlando Johnson, UC-Santa Barbara (26.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); Maurice Jones, USC (28 points, 7-7 3’s vs. South Carolina); Velton Jones, Robert Morris (38 points, 10-15 shooting vs. James Madison); Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee (23.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg, including 32 points, 20 boards vs. Memphis); Anthony Miles, Lamar (24.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.5 rpg); Jim Mower, Lafayette (28.0 ppg, including 37 points, 10-13 threes vs. FDU); Jake Odum, Indiana State (10 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists vs. Fairfield); Joel Smith, Northeastern (29 points, 10 boards in win vs. St. John’s); Kyle Vinales, Central Conn. (27.0 ppg, 3.5 apg, 20-36 FG, 6-12 3’s)

Team of the Week: Harvard Crimson

The Crimson moved to 6-0 on the season as they rolled through the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Harvard didn’t get a matchup with UConn, who lost in the semifinals to Central Florida, but they did land a couple of big wins. Harvard destroyed Utah, who may actually be the worst major conference team in the country, and followed that up with an impressive win over a big, physical Florida State team. Throw in their title game victory over UCF, and the Crimson legitimized the preseason speculation that they were one of, if not the best mid-major team in the country.

There is so much to like about this Harvard team. They have a front line that went punch for punch with one of the biggest and most physical front lines in the country in Florida State, keeping the Seminoles off of the offensive glass despite holding them to 36.2% shooting. They have a solid point guard in Brandyn Curry and a slew of jump shooters on their perimeter. They have youthful experience, meaning that their young roster has been together for a couple of seasons. Perhaps most importantly, the Crimson have depth on their roster. They are bringing top 100 recruits off the bench. This team is for real.

Teams that also deserved to be Team of the Week:

Missouri Tigers: I just wrote a 700 word post on Missouri, so I’m not going to go to in depth here about the Tigers, but their start to the season has been nothing short of incredible. What’s most impressive is the way that Frank Haith has been able to embrace the principles that Mike Anderson instilled in this group during his tenure. The Tigers play terrific pressure defense on the perimeter and have excelled in transition.

San Diego State: I’ll admit it — I doubted this team. And it looks like that was a mistake. The Aztecs moved to 7-1 after a 2-0 week in which Steve Fisher’s club won two games on the road. On Wednesday, they went into the McKale Center and hung on to beat Arizona after opening up the game with a 21-4 run. Then on Saturday, the Aztecs knocked off UC-Santa Barbara in overtime. SDSU has a loaded perimeter attack, but if they can get more performances like the 13 points and nine boards that center Garrett Green had against UCSB, this team gets that much better.

St. Louis Billikens: This group was named BIAH Team of the Week last week after going 3-0 and beating Washington at home. They continued that terrific play this week as they rolled through the 76 Classic, knocked off BC, Villanova and Oklahoma in the span of four nights. What makes this group so intriguing is the way that they play defense and how well they shoot the three ball. That is going to keep them in a lot of games this season. With Temple’s Michael Eric banged up, is St. Louis now the second best team in the Atlantic 10?

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: UNLV looked very, very impressive in their win over North Carolina on Saturday night. But the game also brought some concerns to the surface. For example, UNLV caught a break down the stretch in that the Tar Heels were unable to get a defensive rebound or force a turnover, because they made some really sloppy decisions down the stretch. There were three or four possessions in the final three minutes where UNLV shot a three with 25 or 30 seconds left on the shot clock. North Carolina will usually make their opponents pay for rushing shots like that.

Teams deserving a shout out:

DePaul: The Blue Demons are now 4-1 on the season after a 2-1 week down in Orlando for the Old Spice Classic. DePaul knocked off Texas Tech and Arizona State, and while neither of those teams are going to be competing for conference titles, they are wins none-the-less. Those haven’t been easy to come by for DePaul the past couple of seasons. Their one point loss to Minnesota might have been their most impressive performance of the week.

Duke: The Blue Devils improved to 7-0 on the season by rolling through Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas to take home the Maui Invitational title. The two best signs of the week for Duke — Austin Rivers is starting to show signs of understanding how to be a basketball player, and Mason Plumlee’s back-to-the-basket game is getting better and better.

Georgetown: Its tough to not be impressed by the performance that the Hoyas had in Maui last week. After nearly knocking off Kansas, Henry Sims and Jason Clark took over as Georgetown knocked off Memphis in overtime in the fifth-place game. With how much the Big East has struggled this year, the Hoyas look like they may be able to finish in the top six.

Indiana: The Hoosiers went 2-0 last week, but it was their 75-59 win over Butler that turned the most heads. The Bulldogs are down this season, but the Hoosiers have been down for the entirety of Tom Crean’s tenure. With this win, they, once again, look like the best team in the state. While Cody Zeller has been impressive, its been the play of Will Sheehey that has really sparked IU.

Marshall: The Thundering Herd improved to 5-0 on the season by winning a pair of road games last week. They knocked off UNC-Wilmington by five, and followed that up by going into Cincinnati and beating the Bearcats in overtime.

Michigan: The Wolverines have been one of the bigger surprises of the young season, and much of the credit has to go to Trey Burke. The freshman point guard has valiantly replaced Darius Morris, and while he’s not going to put up the same numbers, his leadership and playmaking has been there. As Burke continues to learn the game, he’s only going to get better.

Santa Clara: Santa Clara finished in third place at the 76 Classic, but they had a couple of very impressive performances. The Broncs not only knocked off New Mexico in the opening round, they beat Villanova in the third-place game, coming from down seven points in the final minute to win. Kevin Foster is the name that everyone knows of this team, but Evan Roquemore has played like a potential all-WCC player early in the season.

St. Joseph’s: The Hawks are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the A-10 this season. After losing a double overtime battle to Iona earlier in the week, St. Joe’s went into Happy Valley and scored the first 22 points of the game as they knocked off Penn State. This is a young group with a lot of promise.

Stanford: Its hard not to be impressed with the way that Stanford played in New York over the holidays. They soundly smacked Oklahoma State before giving Syracuse all they could handle in a six-point loss at the Garden, what effectively amounts to a home-game for the Orange. Josh Owens, Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle provide a sold 1-2-3 punch for Johnny Dawkins, but if Dwight Powell ever grows into his potential, this could be a dangerous team late in the year.

Tennessee: They lost both of their meaningful games in Maui, but the Vols deserve some credit. They are a much different team than last season. They play hard, they play smart and they appear to be well-coached. If Jeronne Maymon and Trae Golden can avoid letting their egos get too big for the team, this is a group that will make some noise in the SEC.

Five Thoughts:

What’s going on in the Pac-12?: There have been two impressive teams in the Pac-12 this season: Oregon State and Stanford. What’s crazier is that neither of them actually won the preseason tournament that they played in. Its gotten to the point in the Pac-12 where we are impressed when teams are able to beat mediocre competition and simply compete with some of the top teams in the country. That’s not a good sign.

I’m not ready to say that either the Beavers or the Cardinals are the favorite in this league just yet. The beatdown that Cal received at the hands of Missouri seems like more of a bad matchup where Cal happened to play poorly and Missouri happened to be on fire. If those two played 10 more times, Cal would win four of them. The same can be said for Washington’s performance at St. Louis; the Huskies aren’t as bad as they appeared playing a game that was a 9:00 am tip pacific time. Arizona will get better as the season progresses, young teams always do. At the very least, the league will be fun to follow.

The bottom of the Pac-12 is where it gets ugly. Arizona State lost to DePaul. Washington State lost to UC-Riverside. Utah was blown out by Harvard, UNC-Asheville and UMass. USC lost to Cal Poly. That’s bad.

The Big East is down, too: The Pac-12 isn’t the only conference dealing with some early-season struggles. The Big East has been anything but impressive this year. UConn lost to Central Florida. Pitt lost to Long Beach State. Villanova went 1-2 in the 76 Classic after needing overtime to beat La Salle. Cincinnati has now lost to Presbyterian and Marshall. West Virginia lost to Kent State. Notre Dame looked terrible at the CBE Classic and lost Tim Abromaitis for the season with a torn acl. St. John’s lost to Northeastern. Half of Louisville’s roster is injured.

I’d go as far as to say that the only Big East team that has been impressive this season has been Georgetown. Marquette could have been included in that conversation until they struggled to beat Norfolk State.

North Carolina’s loss: There are definite issues with the Tar Heels. They don’t defend well enough, they can get beat up in the paint and they struggle when they are forced to play a half court game. Those are major red flags. But remember this: there are not going to be many games that the Tar Heels get such poor performances out of their front line. Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and James Michael McAdoo combined to go 12-38 from the floor, 13-24 from the line, score just 37 points and grab only 24 rebounds. Credit UNLV’s front line for some of that, but also remember how rare that kind of stat line is going to be.

What happened to Alex Oriakhi?: UConn’s big man played such a vital role in their national title performance last season, anchoring the paint and defending the rim. This year, however, he’s struggled to find minutes, and its not because Andre Drummond has been playing great basketball. Against Florida State, Oriakhi played just 10 minutes despite going up against the biggest front line in the country. So what’s the issue? Oriakhi’s been fouling too much, rebounding too little and done nothing to force Calhoun to keep him on the floor. When he did against Central Florida — 14 points, 10 boards, 5 blocks — you saw the results. In those 10 minutes against FSU, he went without a rebound or a shot attempt. Its no wonder he’s not playing.

The Austin Rivers conundrum: Much has been made about the early season performance of Austin Rivers. And, yes, its been less than ideal. But remember, this kid is still a freshmen. He’s still learning the game. He’s still learning how to be a member of a team as good as Duke is. For his entire high school career, Rivers played a style that was, essentially, “give Austin the ball and let him do what he wants”. He’s taking fewer bad shots and playing more within the Duke offense.

It also should be noted that you don’t want to take away the ability of Rivers to throw up one or two ill-advised shots a game. That aggressiveness is what makes him so dangerous. You can’t take away his confidence, but he does need to learn about when the right situation is to attack and when he needs to pull it out and run some offense. He’ll get there. Give him time.

Game of the Week: Duke 68, Kansas 61

This really was just a sensational game. Two high-level teams trading haymakers in a raucous environment. There was defense being played, there were battles underneath the rim and there big-time shots being made. The hero? Seldom-used Tyler Thornton, who hit back-to-back threes in the final minute to clinch the win:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXJQXjhuxmI%5D

Matchups of the Week:

– Mon. 7:00 pm: No. 12 Xavier at No. 22 Vanderbilt
– Mon. 7:00 pm: Long Beach State @ No. 7 Louisville
– Tue. 7:00 pm: No. 15 Michigan @ Virginia
– Tue. 9:30 pm: No. 6 Duke @ No. 3 Ohio State
– Wed. 7:30 pm: No. 20 Florida State @ Michigan State
– Wed. 9:30 pm: No. 11 Wisconsin @ No. 1 North Carolina
– Wed. 10:30 pm: No. 25 Creighton @ San Diego State
– Thu. 9:30 pm: Georgetown @ No. 13 Alabama
– Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 9 Florida @ No. 5 Syracuse
– Fri. 9:00 pm: No. 22 Vanderbilt @ No. 7 Louisville
– Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 1 UNC @ No. 2 Kentucky
– Sat. 3:00 pm: Purdue @ No. 12 Xavier
– Sat. 3:15 pm: No. 19 Gonzaga @ Illinois
– Sun. 5:00 pm: No. 18 Cal @ San Diego State
– Sat. 4:30 pm: No. 17 Marquette @ No. 11 Wisconsin

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.