Michigan State Basketball: Previewing the 2015-16 Spartans


As the dust has settled on the 2014-15 college basketball season, Spartan fans should take time to appreciate what this team accomplished. Mid-season, it was unclear if they would even make the tournament with a sputtering offense and inability to close out games. They closed the season winning 12 of their last 16 games with three of those losses coming to teams that played for the National Championship and a Final Four birth.

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Branden Dawson finished his career with a put-back rebound to put Michigan State in the Final Four and he became the all-time leader in school history in blocks and number seven on the rebounding list. Travis Trice capped his senior year with one of the best runs in the NCAA Tournament in Spartan history. He averaged 19 points per game, 4.2 assists, and hit clutch free throws at the end of games. Trice put MSU on his back during this run, without him the Spartans do not make it to the Final four.

These seniors forever changed their legacy and will now have a final four banner in the Breslin rafters they can always gaze upon, but as they move on let’s take a look at what Michigan State has returning and coming in for next year’s roster.

Coming back, leadership should not be in question with a driven senior in Denzel Valentine and freshman Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn each returning. Each spoke at length after the loss to Duke so the Spartans will be in good hands during a very important off season of player development.

Also returning to the lineup next year will be freshman Marvin Clark and Javon Bess. Clark showed a lot of progression during his year. His offense will always be there and if he can spend the summer continuing to improve his defense the Spartans will have a very capable player. Unfortunately for Bess, his freshman year was one to forget due to injuries. Bess will want to get his surgically repaired foot back to 100 percent and then continue to work on the development of his game. He will be a slashing and defensive threat on the wing that Michigan State did not have this year.

Mar 29, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) drives to the basket against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half in the finals of the east regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In the front court both Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello will be returning as well. If Gavin Schilling is able to take another step in improving his footwork, soft hands, and defend without fouling he will be a great contributor as well next season. His raw athletic ability will never be in question, Schilling just needs to fine tune his basketball abilities. Costello will be in his final year and I expect this will be his finest. He really came on strong in the second half of his season with great defense, timely baskets and a strong rebound presence.

If Costello can develop his outside jumper and play a role much like Goran Suton in his senior year it would open up many doors for the Michigan State offense.

Bryn Forbes, Alvin Ellis and Colby Wollenman are contributors that will also return to the lineup. Ellis will be in a fight for minutes with Bess, Eron Harris and Valentine primarily playing the wing. Wollenman’s role will be similar to this year, where he did have key plays, he will enter the game if others are in foul trouble.

Bryn Forbes is the interesting piece to this puzzle. He will get a full off season of strength training and to work on his defense, which did greatly improve by the end of the season. Despite a full backcourt, there will be minutes available for Forbes, his shot is too good to keep on the bench.

Coming into the lineup will be three freshman and a transfer. Eron Harris is a dynamic guard that will be either to play point guard or at the shooting guard position. Eron has the ability to create his own shot in one on one situations as well as a consistent scorer, he averaged 17.2 points per game in his final season at West Virginia. Harris will give a slashing and scoring element that the Spartans lacked this season when plays broke down or at the end of the shot clock situations.

McDonald’s All-American Deyonta Davis will begin his Michigan State career next year. While his skills are still very raw Davis should be an immediate contributor and give the Spartans more depth and skill in the low post area. Also joining Davis in this class are guards Matthew McQuaid and Kyle Aherns. Minutes could be tough to come by with an already experience and skilled back court, these two are likely to red shirt but nothing is ever guaranteed.

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  • Onto a way to early prediction for captains, the starting lineup, and bench players. I think the captains are fairly obvious at this point. This is Denzel Valentine’s team, he is a senior and will look to continue his growth as a Spartan. It will be up to him to push this team and achieve the goals he wants to in his final year, and I fully believe he is up to the task. His Robin, if you will, will be Tum Tum. Several prominent previous Spartans such as Draymond Green and Mateen Cleaves have raved about his leadership skills and abilities as a true freshman. While this will be Valentine’s team he will have a trusted voice that others will respect and listen to.

    I project the starting lineup for the Spartans will be Tum Tum at point guard, Harris at shooting guard, Valentine at small forward, Davis at power forward and Costello at center. That leaves coming off the bench Forbes, Bess, Clark and Schilling. I believe those are the eight players that will soak up the minutes for the Spartans. A very deep group that has a wide array of skill sets.

    The 2014-2015 team was supposed to be a holding year until this group formed in East Lansing. They were supposed to keep the tournament streak alive until the talent came in. The 2014-15 Spartans did much more than that making it to the Final Four. They have set the bar very high for this incoming team. The leadership and talent are there to have a special season, but as always it will be up to the players on the court and that journey starts now.

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