MSU basketball report card
Tom Izzo: A-
This season could be regarded as Izzo’s best coaching job, and for good reason. He got the most he could out of stalwarts such as Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine, and coaxed his freshmen into playing key minutes throughout the postseason. Decisions that seemed puzzling during the regular season, namely rotation shifts, ultimately paid off. The Spartans lost more games than they should have, and the free throw issue never completely solved itself. But Izzo inherited a team that no one expected to be a contender, and they weren’t a contender until they actually reached the Final Four. What Izzo accomplished this season cannot be understated.
Travis Trice: A
Trice was MSU’s most dangerous and consistent offensive weapon this season, a vital role given MSU’s lack of players who could find their own shot. His offensive explosions against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and against Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 round made him a national hero. Given his personal journey — the endless injuries, mysterious brain infection and missed summers of offseason development — Trice’s hard work paid off in the ultimate way as his heroics helped MSU advance to a Final Four.
Branden Dawson: B
Izzo rode Dawson harder than any of his players. It’s easy to see why, because the Spartans were formidable when Dawson was locked in. He was a double-double machine for most of the regular season, but consecutive underwhelming performances earned him a seat on the bench for MSU’s lone matchup against Wisconsin, a game that Dawson performed badly in. He had a good, not great, postseason run, sparking MSU in wins against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament and Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He struggled to assert himself against Duke in the final game, but then again, the entire team did.
Denzel Valentine: A
Valentine embraced his role as a leader this season, and the results are apparent both in his stat lines and MSU’s season success. Valentine was by far MSU’s most versatile player. His offseason work was represented best by the improvement in his 3-point shot, which became his most relied-upon weapon on offense. He vowed to bring the Spartans back to the Final Four next year, and based on his body of work this season, few will question his commitment to backing that statement up.
Gavin Schilling: C
It was a frustrating year for the sophomore forward, who perhaps had more fouls than glimpses of his tantalizing athletic ability (and there were plenty of glimpses). It’s also worth noting he only started to save Matt Costello from early foul trouble. Schilling was often benched after the first media timeout. Schilling has potential to be an impact defensive player with his leaping ability, but first he has to figure out how to stay out of foul trouble.
Lowrawls Narin Jr.: C+
The infectious point guard from the Bahamas earned his way into the starting lineup with his energy and defensive ability. His offense is a work in progress. He was usually the fastest player on the court but was a reluctant slasher, and his shot has good form but isn’t accurate. His biggest impact might have been behind the scenes. Teammates respect Nairn as both a vocal and emotional leader, which is impressive considering his lack of experience. With more confidence on the offensive end of the ball, he could become a good two-way player.