Michigan State Basketball: Tom Izzo’s 2-year plan could bring 2020 national title

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans looks on during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Breslin Center on November 30, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans looks on during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Breslin Center on November 30, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Tom Izzo has pieced together his two-year plan which could bring a national title to Michigan State basketball by the year 2020.

Coach Tom Izzo’s two year “Miles Bridges” plan did not have the post-season success that he and his team wanted. The talent was there as seen by Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. being lottery picks in the 2018 NBA Draft but no Final Four appearances in any of the past two seasons were viewed by Spartan fans as a disappointment.

However, the foundation was built and with Cassius Winston, Nick Ward, Joshua Langford and Co. coming back for the 2018-19 season, the possibilities are endless for this upcoming season and the season thereafter. If everything goes as planned or with some slight variation of it, Michigan State will be the 2020 national champions and here is why.

Year one of the plan

Most people will look to junior point guard Cassius Winston and junior power forward Nick Ward as the main reasons that Michigan State will have success this season and make a run in the NCAA Tournament. They are partially correct in that assumption, but along with Winston and Ward, this season’s team has veteran leadership and has depth enabling the possibility of the veteran players getting rest when needed.

Some have forgotten and or do not fully understand the importance of junior shooting guard Joshua Langford and the potential impact that he will have in determining the success of this team this season. If Langford, along with his solid mid-range shot, can be more consistent beyond the 3-point arc, he could really help in the process of getting this team to a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Alongside Langford in the “don’t forget about me” category is sophomore center/forward Xavier Tillman who will continue to develop and look to be a starter and impact player on this year’s team. He showed flashes last season and gained the trust of the coaching staff by season’s end. He has worked hard to get in great shape and he can be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams who have slower, unathletic big men.

The Spartans have two seniors who will theoretically be the sixth and seventh men in the rotation in forward Kenny Goins and guard Matt McQuaid. These two should provide stability and leadership within the locker room and on the court.

McQuaid has improved his defense and if left open can knock down the open three. Goins has proven to be a solid contributor and provides energy by diving for loose balls and battling underneath for key rebounds.

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Another veteran who will be looked upon to contribute will be junior guard/forward Kyle Ahrens. He has versatility and could be a nice surprise especially on the offensive end. Ahrens can be along with Goins and McQuaid significant contributors off the bench or fill in starters in case of injuries.

The group to watch is the five true freshmen in forward Marcus Bingham Jr., guard Gabe Brown, wing Aaron Henry, point guard Foster Loyer and wing/forward Thomas Kithier.

Bingham has come in with a ton of potential and will rotate in behind Ward and Tillman, Brown can be a nice surprise coming off the bench and giving the Spartans a spark at the guard position and Henry may be the readiest to play right now and can give some key minutes especially early in the tough non-conference schedule. Loyer is expected to be Winston’s backup and he has the basketball IQ to lead the second unit when needed and the most likely to redshirt may be Kithier but if injuries plague Michigan State this season he may be needed to come in a play right away.

The expectation for this year’s team is to win back to back Big Ten regular season titles and, more importantly, to not only make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament but to strive to make it to an Elite Eight appearance or better.

This team will be solid and has all the making to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. However, next season should be the year that Michigan State makes a serious run for an NCAA national championship.

Year two of the plan

The 2019-2020 season should be the most complete team that Tom Izzo will have since maybe his national championship team of 2000. No one can predict who will declare for the NBA draft or who may transfer but it has the making of being a national championship-contending team and here is why.

The absolute best-case scenario is that Winston and Ward return for their senior seasons and Michigan State will sign a great incoming freshman class. Imagine having a starting lineup of three seniors in Langford, Winston, and Ward along with Tillman as a junior, and possibly a very talented freshman and or a sophomore in Brown or Henry rounding out the lineup.

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Assuming you have a probable starting lineup of Winston at the point guard position, Langford at shooting guard spot, Brown at small forward, Ward at the power forward position, and Tillman anchoring it down at center, imagine what the bench and second unit would consist of.

Foster with a year’s experience would be the back up at point guard, incoming freshman Rocket Watts would be backing up Langford, either Ahrens or Henry rotating in with Brown at the wing, and having Bingham Jr. backing up Ward, and an incoming freshman and or Kithier rotating in on the back line. It would be not only a very talented team but a team with experience, depth and an endless high ceiling.

The biggest question mark or worst-case scenario would be that Winston and Ward both declare for the NBA draft, Ahrens becomes a graduate transfer and leaves for another school, and Watts is the only player Izzo signs for the incoming freshman class. The likelihood of that all, or most of it, occurring is highly unlikely. The most likely outcome would be either Winston or Ward declaring for the NBA draft if one were to have an outstanding season and see their draft stock soar. When all said and done, Izzo could convince everyone to come back and sign at least two more incoming freshmen to go along with Watts.

The biggest mystery will be who can Izzo and the Spartans sign in the early signing period to go along with Watts. According verbalcommits.com, Tom Izzo could have an unreal class if he can sign two from the group of Vernon Carey, Jr. Isaiah Stewart, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Drew Timme, Keion Brooks, Jr. or Malik Hall.

The odds who the Spartans getting two out of that group to sign with Watts is a strong possibility. If that were to occur, then it would be hard to argue that Michigan State would not be that hands-on favorites to win the national championship in 2020.

Spartan fans should look at this proposed two-year plan and be salivating at the mouth. It’s no secret that Izzo could have his best team in nearly two decades as he and Michigan open the 2019-2020 season.

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A lot must happen to have the best scenario play out but even if Ward declares for the NBA draft after this season and Izzo doesn’t sign Carey or Brooks Jr. Michigan State will still have an amazing roster and there is no reason not to be highly optimistic and expect a national championship. Time will tell but the future looks bright so be prepared to put on those shades.