Spartans enter season as No. 13 in AP Top 25

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Rocket Watts/Photo: Michigan State Athletic Communications

Trent Balley, Men's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — With the 2020-21 college basketball season just around the corner, the Associated Press released its preseason Top 25 rankings Monday. The Michigan State Spartans came in right in the middle at the No. 13 spot.

The Spartans are far from alone in representing the Big Ten, however. Iowa sits at No. 5, Wisconsin at No. 7, Illinois at No. 8, Ohio State at No. 23, Rutgers at No. 24 and Michigan at No. 25. The conference is shaping up to be perhaps the most competitive in the country. All signs point to a challenging season on the court compounded with all of the obstacles off of it.

The Spartans will take on their first campaign since 2015-16 without star guard Cassius Winston, who graduated in the spring and is hoping to hear his name called at the 2020 NBA Draft on Nov. 18. Also departing with draft hopes was 2019-20 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Xavier Tillman.

Needless to say, the Spartans have some holes to fill this season. But a team that was peaking at the perfect time in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a premature end to the season still returns much of its nucleus. Not to mention Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo is still at the helm.

Sophomore guard Rocket Watts is expected to be the dynamic ball handler, with preseason All-Big Ten forward Aaron Henry and graduate student-athlete Joshua Langford on the wings. Redshirt junior forward Joey Hauser, who transferred from Marquette prior to last season, is primed for his first run with the Spartans. 

Joshua Langford rises for a jumper (Photo: MSU Athletics Communication)

Juniors Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Marcus Bingham Jr. and Thomas Kithier as well as sophomores Malik Hall and Julius Marble II all got respectable minutes last season. 

A handful of intriguing freshmen are beginning their careers in East Lansing as well. Guards A.J. Hoggard and Davis Smith join center Mady Sissoko for a triple threat freshman class.

No schedule has been released yet for the Spartans, but college basketball is slated to begin on Nov. 25 nationwide.

Trent Balley is a men’s basketball beat reporter for WDBM Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @TrentBalley.