Michigan State men’s basketball has been a major disappointment in recent years. Despite receiving some of the better recruiting classes in the country, they have not made it out of the second round of the NCAA tournament in three straight years.
MSU has also been outscored by a combined 50 points in their last three meetings with their archrival, Michigan, which is unacceptable for a Hall of Fame coach who has received three five-star recruits over the past two seasons compared to zero going to Ann Arbor.
The Spartans are being gutted of their most valuable attribute; their size. They will be losing Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter to graduation as well as losing Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges to the NBA draft.
Nick Ward has also inserted his name into the draft pool, but is not projected to be selected at the moment, however, that could change if he impresses coaches and scouts during workouts or at the NBA combine.
If the Spartans do lose Ward, there will be a total of five forwards coming off the the roster.
The Spartans have historically been a team that plays old-school basketball, meaning they win games by playing aggressive defense and out-rebounding their opponents. This playing style is dying, at least in the college game.
Defense does not win championships anymore. Nowadays, the top teams are built around high-scoring, explosive playing styles. They consist of athletic playmakers that can stretch opposing defenses inside and out.
If you look at the Final Four teams this past season (Kansas, Villanova, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago), three of the four teams were ranked in the top-10 in field-goal percentage in the country. None of the four teams were ranked in the top 50 in rebounds per game and only Loyola-Chicago was ranked in the top 50 in defensive field-goal percentage.
Michigan State was ranked seventh in rebounds per game and first in defensive field goal percentage in the country, yet struggled to contain top schools, losing four of their six matchups against teams that finished in the final AP Top-25 ranking of the season.
Izzo’s coaching style is not working anymore.
If Izzo wants his program to stay relevant in the 2018-19 season, he has got to change the way he coaches. If still tries to go out there and play old school basketball, he is going to get beat. This team will not have the size or athleticism to succeed at that playing style anymore.
Now that they are getting gutted of their size next season, this seems like the perfect time for Izzo to adapt to the way the game is played today.
Their starting five will probably look something similar to this next year if Ward ends up leaving:
G: Cassius Winston
G: Matt McQuaid
G/F: Joshua Langford
F: Kenny Goins
F: Xavier Tillman
This team is definitely taking a hit defensively, so Izzo is going to have to play to this rotation’s’ strength: scoring. This quintet shot 46.5 percent from the floor and an impressive 42.9 percent from beyond the arc last season. To put that number in perspective, North Carolina was fifth in the country in points scored on 46 percent shooting and Purdue ranked second in the country in three-point percentage, at 42 percent.
The Spartan bench will be pretty thin next season, however, they are bringing in two four-star recruits that can shoot the lights out in guard Foster Loyer and forward Marcus Bingham Jr. Gabe Brown and Aaron Henry are two other freshman that have to potential to carve out roles on the bench.
This team needs to be more dynamic on the offensive end next season. They certainly will have their work cut out for them, especially if they lose Ward as well. However, a coach as prestigious as Izzo should be able to equip his team to compete with the best of the nation next season.