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Can the Spartans Retool on the Fly?

Michigan State v Louisville
Alvin Ellis has a chance to be a major contributor for a very different MSU roster.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images


2015-16: 29-6 (13-5 B1G)

Coach: Come on, you know this

Departures: G Denzel Valentine (graduation/drafted #14 by Bulls), F Matt Costello (graduation/signed by Hawks, waived, currently with Grizzlies), G Bryn Forbes (graduation/signed by Spurs as free agent), F Deyonta Davis (NBA draft, #31 by Celtics to Grizzlies), F Javon Bess (transfer - St. Louis), F Marvin Clark Jr. (transfer - St. John’s)

Arrivals: F Miles Bridges (5*), G Josh Langford (5*), G Cassius Winston (4*), F/C Nick Ward (4*), grad transfer Ben Carter (UNLV)

The Lineup

Expected Starters: PG Lourawls Tum Tum Nairn, SG Eron Harris, SF Josh Langford, PF Miles Bridges, C Kenny Goins (?)

So the serious concern here is an already-thin frontcourt which has suffered 2 graduations, 2 transfers, and now 2 apparently fairly serious injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter. Former walk-on Kenny Goins and freshmen Miles Bridges and Nick Ward will all have to punch above their weight classes, and there isn’t a true center available to start the season.

In the backcourt, the Spartans will have an abundance of options, from stud freshmen Winston and Langford to seniors Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis III, and reserves like Matt McQuaid who could be in for larger roles. If the frontcourt can hold up in interior defense and on the boards until Schilling and Carter return, the skill is here on the perimeter to score with anyone.

Whose Team Is It, Anyway?

Beyond the raw production which walked out the door, the leadership of Valentine, lethal sharpshooting of Forbes, and energy of Costello leave this roster with plenty of talent, but a total lack of any known identity, at least from the outside.

Junior point guard Tum Tum Nairn, now healthy, looks to be the team’s next leader, but unless he developed an outside shot, his offensive game is too much of a handicap to be a focal point. This is probably Tom Izzo’s most talented freshman class ever, but there are large voids of both leadership and production for them to fill.

The Schedule difficult, per Tom Izzo’s preference. The noncon kicks off with Arizona and Kentucky, includes a game at Cameron Indoor, and also features St. John’s, Horizon contender Oakland, and the ghost of Dunk City (though I admittedly couldn’t tell you if Florida Gulf Coast is still any good or not).

In conference play, the double plays are Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan, Purdue, and Ohio State. Curiously enough, 4 of the first 5 league games are at home (including a neutral site), but there is no similar extended road stretch.

OTE Predictions

Aaron Yorke: 23-8 (13-5)

babaoreally: 22-9 (12-6)

Candystripes: 28-3 (17-1)

Creighton M: 23-8 (13-5)

DJ Carver: 27-4 (16-2)

Graham Filler: 24-7 (13-5)

Jesse Collins: 25-6 (14-4)

MNWildcat: 26-5 (15-3)

StewMonkey13: 26-5 (16-2)

Thumpasaurus: 24-7 (13-5)