Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A look at MSU basketball next season

April 8, 2015
<p>Junior forward Denzel Valentine attempts a basket April 4, 2015, during the semi-final game of the NCAA Tournament in the Final Four round at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans were defeated by the Blue Devils, 81-61. Erin Hampton/The State News</p>

Junior forward Denzel Valentine attempts a basket April 4, 2015, during the semi-final game of the NCAA Tournament in the Final Four round at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans were defeated by the Blue Devils, 81-61. Erin Hampton/The State News

Photo by Erin Hampton | The State News

MSU will lose two of its top three scorers from this season, senior guard Travis Trice and senior forward Branden Dawson, but junior guard Eron Harris will be eligible next season. The Spartans will also usher in three new freshmen — forward Deyonta Davis, guard Matt McQuaid and guard Kyle Ahrens.

There could be a healthy competition for minutes at both the forward and shooting guard position, and in general, MSU should have plenty of depth next season.

As far as the offseason goes, head coach Tom Izzo said he will try to do a better job of figuring things out collectively with his team. Last year, the players did more on their own, but this year, “It’s gonna be me and them and all of us together and see what we can do,” Izzo said.

Valentine is expected to be Batman next year, according to Izzo, and Nairn will be his Robin.

Valentine’s numbers have steadily increased each year he’s been at MSU, and as a senior he’ll once again be relied upon to do it all for this team. He improved his jump shot this year, and if he can have one more successful offseason, Valentine could be a first team All-Big Ten level performer next season.

Make no mistake about it, this will be Nairn and Valentine’s team next season. The freshman guard started for the Spartans throughout their Big Ten and NCAA Tournament runs, and this experience should do wonders for him next year. Nairn said he is a man on a mission to win a national title. His speed in transition is exactly what Izzo wants from his point guard, and Nairn also has showed poise and maturity with the ball in his hands. If he can improve his jumper, Nairn could become a much more dangerous offensive weapon.

After transferring from West Virginia and sitting out this season, Harris could become a go-to scorer next year. He can get to the basket, something MSU desperately missed this year. At West Virginia, he averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore, and on the practice team this year he often emulated the best player on whichever team MSU was preparing for.

Costello will probably have knee surgery soon, according to Izzo, but the specific reason was not addressed. He was, however, battling tendinitis in recent weeks. Although he came off the bench, Costello was MSU’s most impactful forward and averaged 7.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. With the departure of Dawson, Costello will be expected to boost his rebounding output next season.

Forbes cemented his importance as a sharpshooter in MSU’s Elite Eight win against Louisville. He steadily improved his defense over the season as well, but as a senior next year he will need to kick it up another notch.

Schilling showed signs of improvement early in the year, revealing quicker footwork and a jump-hook on the offensive end. He hit a wall toward the middle of the season, however, and often picked up more fouls than points the rest of the year. He’ll have an offseason to get his mind right again but fighting for minutes in the post will be a challenge next year.

The McDonald’s All-American and Muskegon product will have a chance to be a starter next season. Talent wise, he’s one of the top recruits to come to MSU in recent years and will join Costello as the only other Mr. Basketball winner from Michigan on the roster. At 6 feet 9 inches,Davis adds length to the forward position and could potentially blossom into a star.

Injuries derailed his freshman year, but as Izzo stressed the importance of getting a guy who can drive the ball and draw a foul, Bess could very well fill that role next season. He’s a gritty defender as well and could fill the absence left by Dawson.

Assuming he recovers well in the offseason, Bess could become the player he showed signs of this year.

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