Grading Michigan State Basketball’s top players during a roller coaster season


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It was a solid season for the Michigan State Spartans in 2014-15 as the team experienced an up-and-down year, finishing on a high note with a Final Four. If it weren’t for a loss to Duke, this Spartans team could be one of the most impressive in the history of the program, if it isn’t already.

A couple weeks after Michigan State was manhandled in the Final Four by the Duke Blue Devils it’s time to grade its season, and some of the key MSU players.

Let’s take a look at every top player’s grade, as well as Tom Izzo.

Tom Izzo: A

Just what an unbelievable job he has done with this program, especially the 2014-2015 season. Will go down as one of his best coaching jobs yet. He got the most out of every player, especially Trice and Denzel Valentine, and leaned upon freshmen to play key minutes in the post-season and in big games.

Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo reacts from the sideline against the Duke Blue Devils in the first half of the 2015 NCAA Men

Crazy rotation shifts that left us baffled but seemed to pay off because, well, Izzo is Izzo. He knows what he’s doing, always steps ahead of everyone else. Some losses can’t be blamed on Izzo, but on extremely poor free throw shooting. Amazingly, Izzo took a struggling team to the Final Four and for that he passes with ease.

Denzel Valentine: A-

Valentine seemed to embrace the role as the leader of this team, he took it upon himself to lead the team to each victory. He was and still is Michigan State’s most versatile player on both the offensive and defensive end. He worked hard to get a consistent three-point shot and it paid off. His shot became almost automatic at some stretches during games.

He promised to bring the Spartans back to the Final Four, and if he keeps improving as a player and a leader, it’s likely that will happen. Denzel Passes.

Travis Trice: A

Travis Trice was Michigan State’s most consistent and dangerous player on the offensive end. One of the few players on the team who could create shots for his others and himself. He was phenomenal in the big games such as against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game just like he was against Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 and Louisville in the Elite Eight. Giving his countless injuries and mysterious life-threatening infection, no one ever questioned his hard work.

His dedication alone passes him, but he’s a top-notch player and deserves an ‘A’ for everything he’s done for the team.

Branden Dawson: B+

Izzo had to stay on Dawson more than any other player. My guess is that he knew the potential the Dawson has and wanted to get the best out of him. When Branden was locked-in he was a double-double machine, but he couldn’t stay focused. He had several games where it looked like he was just slacking off. If he had played to his potential the entire season, and not under-performed we could’ve been talking about him for POY. His huge impact in the tournament showed that Michigan State needed him; huge games against No. 2 Virginia and Louisville proved that.

Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard/forward Branden Dawson (22) dunks against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half of the 2015 NCAA Men

Based off his potential and ability to be the key to the team he passes with a B+.

Matt Costello: B

Costello was always fun to watch on defense. His long wingspan and strong post-defense set him up to shut almost anyone down if he stayed out of foul trouble. His quick feet and ability to put the ball up hard or soft helped him become an offensive threat at times. He had somewhat of an improved mid-range game to always keep his defenders on their heels.

While he isn’t a huge impact player, he gets a ‘B’ off just pure heart. He always gives it his all to Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

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