Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Players to watch and what to expect from the 2020-21 MSU men's basketball squad

September 8, 2020
Coach Tom Izzo yells at freshman guard Rocket Watts during a game against Maryland. The Spartans fell to the Terrapins, 60-67, at the Breslin Student Events Center on February 15, 2020.
Coach Tom Izzo yells at freshman guard Rocket Watts during a game against Maryland. The Spartans fell to the Terrapins, 60-67, at the Breslin Student Events Center on February 15, 2020. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Although there is uncertainty about the 2020-2021 men's basketball season being played due to COVID-19, the show must go on. The Michigan State men’s basketball team did that Thursday by announcing the roster for the 2020-2021 season.

Starting 5 prediction:

Point Guard - Rocket Watts: Watts appeared in the starting lineup for his first eight games in his Spartan uniform last season. After struggling immensely to find his shooting rhythm, Watts was moved to the bench where his percentages improved, but still were not great. From there, the 6-foot-2, Detroit native found himself in and out of the starting lineup as the season progressed. As he began to settle into his new role, Watts started to play much better. He caught fire before the season ended scoring 21, 13, 18, and 19 points respectively in the last four games. With Cassius Winston gone, look for Watts to build from where he left off as the new primary ball handler.

Shooting Guard - Joshua Langford: Injuries have plagued the last two seasons for Joshua Langford - in fact, he has not played since December 2018. After receiving a waiver from the NCAA Langford has been granted one more year of eligibility, listing him as a graduate student athlete on the 2020-21 roster. As a five-star recruit coming out of high school, the sky's the limit for Langford. If he is able to return to his pre-injury self from 2018, his experience and basketball IQ would be a huge asset for the Spartans.

Small Forward - Aaron Henry: Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts are the only real locks for the starting lineup. Last year, Henry started in all but one game, so there is really no reason why he would not be starting this year. When the season ended early, Henry announced that he would be testing out the NBA Draft waters. However, Henry decided to return to East Lansing for his junior season. Henry is a great three-and-D player who will look to improve his NBA Draft stock by showing up for the Spartans this season.

Power Forward - Joey Hauser: Joey Hauser has completely flown under the radar. As a freshman at Marquette, Hauser was a stud averaging 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. When he announced he was transferring to Michigan State before the 2019 season, there was hope that he would be immediately eligible and make an impact on the team. However, Hauser was deemed ineligible for the 2019-2020 season by the NCAA and was forced to redshirt. As a 42.5% three-point shooter, Hauser should make an immediate improvement for the Spartans’ who shot just 34.8% from three in 2019, 96th in the country.

Center - Marcus Bingham Jr.: The center position is the hardest position to predict in terms of what head coach Tom Izzo will go with. Marcus Bingham Jr. seems like the most likely day one starter but Izzo could easily go with freshman 4-star Mady Sissoko or even junior Thomas Kithier. Neither Bingham Jr. or Kithier provide much on the offensive end of the floor, but Binghman Jr. makes up for it. Last year standing at 6-foot-11, Bingham Jr. averaged 1.4 blocks per game while only starting in 16 games. With Bingham Jr. protecting the glass and lots of scoring anticipated from the other four starters, rim protection, rebounding, and average scoring is all Izzo may need from his starting center. Sissoko also may fit that role with his 7-foot-4 wingspan, but his raw talent may need some time to mature.

A deep bench for the 2020 Spartans

One of the easily noticeable aspects of this roster is the depth, especially in the frontcourt. Junior Gabe Brown and sophomore Malik Hall both had solid 2019 campaigns. Both Brown and Hall are able to stretch the floor while also being able to hold their own on the defensive end. Thomas Kithier and Mady Sissoko are both great bench centers along with sophomore Julius Marble II who may get some minutes at the 5. Izzo should not have much concern turning to them on the bench.

As for the guards, there is depth there too. Junior Foster Loyer will likely serve as the backup point guard to Rocket Watts. With a smaller frame, Loyer will shoot threes from an efficient clip, different from the slashing style of Rocket Watts. Loyer knows the system and could be in for a heavier load this year without Cassius Winston who played 32.7 minutes per game in 2019. Incoming freshman guard A.J. Hoggard likely will also see some playing time as he becomes familiar with Izzo’s scheme.

If and when we are able to have a college basketball season, this team will be lots of fun to watch. With the depth of the team, anticipated improvements from the starters, and Tom Izzo still at head coach, they should be competing for yet another Big Ten championship.

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