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Column: MSU basketball fans will have to practice their patience this year

October 26, 2016
Men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo addresses the crowd during the Izzone Campout on Oct. 21, 2016 at Munn Field. The campout is an annual event where students stay up through the night in hopes of getting lower bowl seating for the upcoming basketball season.
Men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo addresses the crowd during the Izzone Campout on Oct. 21, 2016 at Munn Field. The campout is an annual event where students stay up through the night in hopes of getting lower bowl seating for the upcoming basketball season. —
Photo by Derek VanHorn | and Derek VanHorn The State News

With MSU basketball’s freshman class being heralded as one of the best groupings of young talent in the country, and possibly MSU head coach Tom Izzo’s best recruiting class in 22 years at MSU, it’s understandable for there to be high expectations again this season for the team — but fans will have to be patient.

It will take time for this team to have chemistry anywhere near the chemistry of last year’s Big Ten Tournament Championship team. It will take time for the talented freshmen guards Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford, along with forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward to begin playing at a level that could help propel MSU to a Big Ten title and possibly more.

More than that, though, it will take time for this team to find its identity. With senior forward Gavin Schilling and graduate transfer forward Ben Carter both out indefinitely after each underwent knee surgery in the past month, MSU might not know what kind of team it is going to be until after the new year.

Last season it was apparent early on, MSU was a 3-point shooting, fast-paced team that sometimes struggled when forced to win games with its half court offense. The team was sixth nationally in rebounding and had a strong presence on the inside with then-freshman Deyonta Davis and senior Matt Costello patrolling the paint.

This year’s edition of the MSU basketball team has more questions than answers, including how senior guard Eron Harris and junior guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. respond to having expanded roles this season.

Harris will have to change his approach from a season ago, when he sacrificed his offensive game to become the best defender on the team, taking on the challenge of chasing around the other teams’ best players.

This season, Izzo will need Harris to recapture some of his explosive scoring ability that saw him average just more than 17 points per game his sophomore year at West Virginia. He showed that ability last year, averaging 17.8 points per game during Denzel Valentine’s four-game absence last season.

Nairn, who now seems to be 100 percent healthy after battling a case of plantar fasciitis for a majority of last season, which limited his role on the team, also has to take a step forward.

Narin has shown time and again his value on the defensive end of the court as one of MSU’s best defenders along with Harris, but this season, his offensive game has to take a major leap forward if MSU is going to contend for a title.

He doesn’t have to lead the team in scoring or 3-point shooting, he just has to prove he can be a threat to score from the perimeter and be able to finish around the rim, so opposing teams can not ignore him on offense and double team other players.

With an injury-riddled front court and an overall young team, MSU will face one of the most daunting early season schedules in the country, playing Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and possibly Louisville, all in a span of 18 days.

Even with a healthy Schilling and Carter it would be hard to see MSU emerging with less than two losses at the end of November, but now with both men out, it is reasonable to believe MSU could lose many as four games in the first month of the season.

After watching MSU get off to its best start in program history last season, winning its first 13 games of the season, it might be hard to be patient with how much talent MSU boasts this year. However, with this year’s edition, fans have to remain patient and remember: champions aren’t made in November or December, champions are made in February and March. 

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