Ever since Tom Izzo took over as the MSU Basketball coach, the Spartans have become regulars in the Final Four. Until this past season, every four year player for Tom Izzo had been to at least one Final Four. That is not an easy feat considering Izzo has been at MSU for two decades.
Most fans and media had last year pegged as Izzo’s best chance to win a championship since the Mateen Cleaves era, but it didn’t quite work out as planned. MSU got bounced in the Elite Eight by eventual National Champion UConn, leaving Spartan fans wondering when their team will get another shot at a Final Four.
Expectations going into the 2014-15 season aren’t going to be nearly as high as they were last year because MSU lacks the star power that Gary Harris and Adreian Payne provided. That being said, there is still plenty of talent on the roster and Tom Izzo is the best in the business at getting the most out of his players. Here are the biggest reasons that MSU has a chance to make the Final Four this season.
BRANDEN DAWSON’S SENIOR YEAR
Branden Dawson has been one of the most polarizing players at Michigan State in recent memory. His abundance of talent and freakish athleticism make him an entertaining player to watch, but he has yet to put it all together and make himself into a star.
In each of his three seasons at Michigan State, Dawson has had guys like Draymond Green, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris playing along side him so there was never a lot of pressure for him to be great. That will not be the case this year.
The most productive returning players besides Dawson are Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice, both of whom are solid players but neither have shown the ability to dominate games. Dawson has that ability and for the first time since coming to MSU he will have to display it on a nightly basis if his team is going to be successful.
Dawson will also be trying to prove to NBA scouts that he is worthy of a high draft pick in next years NBA Draft. This could be the extra motivation Dawson needs to finally get over the hump and go from being a good player to being a special player.
Dawson is the most talented player on Michigan State’s roster, and all the factors surrounding his senior year could fuel him to become a superstar for the Spartans.
Although it’s dangerous for a team to rely too much on 3-point shooting, it can be an extremely deadly offensive weapon–and the Spartans have shooters.
Kenny Kaminski is not only the best shooter on the MSU roster, but he might be one of the best shooters in the entire country. He hit over 49 percent of his 3-point attempts as a redshirt freshman last season, the highest rate on the team. Kaminski doesn’t create his own shot, but he can catch-and-shoot with the best of them.
Senior Travis Trice is also an accomplished marksman, boasting a career 3-point percentage above 41 percent. Trice will most likely be running the offense for the Spartans next season, and if he sees openings in the defense he won’t be afraid to pull the trigger from deep.
Throw in guys like Alvin Ellis III and possibly Bryn Forbes and Michigan State has one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the B1G. When it comes to the NCAA Tournament it’s all about getting hot at the right time, and if MSU’s 3-point shooters get hot in March the Spartans will have a chance to make a deep run.
As cliche as it might sound, the biggest reason that Michigan State has a chance to make the Final Four next season is Mr. March himself, Tom Izzo.
In Izzo’s 19 seasons in East Lansing he has won eight National Coach of the Year awards, brought MSU to 17 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and most importantly coached the Spartans to six Final Fours.
He is one of the best coaches in all of college basketball and his specialty has always been getting his teams to the Final Four. I mentioned Izzo’s streak of four-year players making the Final Four earlier, and that is no coincidence–he builds his teams for March.
Michigan State consistently plays one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the entire country because Izzo isn’t concerned with his team’s overall record or national ranking, he only cares about preparing his team for the postseason. Using this formula, Izzo has been able to get his teams to play their best basketball come tournament time, which has allowed him to lead some of his less talented teams to the Final Four.
If the 2014-15 MSU Basketball team makes the Final Four it will be one of Tom Izzo’s greatest accomplishments to date–but if there is one thing fans should know it’s to never sleep on the Spartans in March.
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