Michigan State lost a lot of playmakers this offseason, returning just one of it’s top four scorers from a year ago. Seniors Branden Dawson and Travis Trice will be heavily relied upon as leaders next season, as well as do-it-all junior Denzel Valentine.
The Spartans still have some talent on the roster, but with the losses of Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling it will be an uphill battle for MSU to get over the hump and make the 2015 Final Four.
These are the biggest flaws that Tom Izzo has to figure out going into the 2014-15 season.
Over the past two seasons Matt Costello has proven to be a good defensive center, but his offense has left much to be desired. Luckily he had players like Payne and Harris shouldering most of the scoring burden his first two years, but 2014-15 will be a different story.
Costello isn’t going to be relied upon as a primary scoring option, but if the Spartans want to have an efficient offense he will need to increase his productivity. He has shown flashes of scoring ability, but he will have to find a lot more consistency if he wants to at least somewhat replace Adreian Payne.
Sophomore Gavin Schilling is the other option at center for Tom Izzo. Schilling has more scoring potential than Costello but he had an extremely tough freshman year, picking up almost as many fouls (50) as he did points (53).
If the Spartans hope to compete for a B1G title next season, they will need to get a lot more production out of the Costello/Schilling tandem.
This is a flaw that has plagued Michigan State ever since Draymond Green graduated. The Spartans have had talented players who have great chemistry, but haven’t found the guy who will take charge and assert himself as the leader.
Tom Izzo begged Keith Appling to become that guy the past few years, but even in his senior year he couldn’t do it because it just wasn’t his personality. Someone like Denzel Valentine has the potential to become a strong leader, but he has yet to show the initiative to take over a team.
Everything we’ve heard about incoming freshman point guard “Tum-Tum” Nairn indicates he is a born leader. That will serve the Spartans well down the road, but it’s hard to imagine an unheralded freshman coming in and becoming the unquestioned leader of the team.
Good leadership is tough to come by, but Michigan State needs to find it if the Spartans want to have success next season.
WHO IS “THE GUY”?
Last year the Spartans lacked leadership but they at least had several guys they could turn to and say “Go get us a basket.” That doesn’t look to be the case this year.
Denzel Valentine is the most versatile scorer on the team and even he isn’t a reliable playmaker in one-on-one situations. Branden Dawson’s game just doesn’t allow him to be the go-to guy when MSU badly needs a bucket. The Spartans have shooters like Travis Trice and Kenny Kaminski as well as some unproven commodities like Alvin Ellis III and “Tum-Tum” Nairn, but I don’t think Tom Izzo would feel confident putting the ball in any of their hands with the clock winding down and the game on the line.
It might not seem like a big deal, especially if the offense runs well and everyone plays their roles effectively, but there are a few key moments in every game when you just need someone who can create something by himself and get a basket.
If no one emerges as the go-to guy for Michigan State next season, it could find itself coming up short in a lot of close games.
While there is plenty of reason for optimism going into next season, there are a lot of holes on this team that Tom Izzo needs to patch up before the season starts.
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