Michigan State basketball lost all-time Spartan great Cassius Winston. But will the additions outweigh the subtractions entering 2020-21?
All things considered, Michigan State basketball isn’t in a terrible spot.
Cassius Winston, the best MSU point guard since Magic Johnson, rounded out his eligibility. He led this program to a Final Four and could have made a March Madness run if the season hadn’t been canceled. Xavier Tillman, the Big Ten defender of the year, has left for the NBA draft. But the more I look over the roster next season, the less worried I become.
This isn’t a team with no returning talent; this squad has almost an entire lineup of players who could step up as a number one guy next year.
Just look at the names on this team: Rocket Watts, Joey Hauser, Josh Langford and Aaron Henry. Any one of the guys I just listed could step up as MSU’s top dog in 2020, starting with point guard Rocket Watts.
Right now, we can all assume that Watts will be filling the gap that Cassius Winston left behind. From an outside perspective, Watts numbers actually aren’t very impressive at all. Nothing about his 38 percent from the field and 29 percent three point rate stick out from a crowd, but his performance down the stretch last year is a reason for hope. In the last four games before the cancellation, Watts averaged about 18 points per game, stepping up when the Spartans had a repeat Big Ten title on the line.
In the case that Rocket doesn’t step up, you don’t have to search too far to find your guy. Joey Hauser will be making his way to East Lansing from Marquette. In his only season in college, the forward averaged just under 10 points along with five rebounds on 43 percent shooting. He’ll provide a huge bonus on the floor and give Watts, Langford and Henry more space to work with.
One of the knocks on this team for a good chunk of the season was the lack of shooting. Last year, Michigan State barely finished in the top 100 in 3-point shooting percentage. With Rocket gaining confidence and Hauser stepping in as a sharpshooter big man, that shouldn’t even be a thought in anybody’s mind anymore. Cassius was the best shooter, but in 2020, four out of five players in the starting lineup can be lethal from deep.
That, paired with the “addition” of Langford, all but confirms the fact that this team will not have any drop-off from last year. Yes, Cassius’ leadership will be missed, but Langford has been a captain since 2018. He has already won over this team and he’ll be able to rally the squad when they need him most. If he can stay healthy, this team might even take a step forward from last season.
That being said, you have to look at the negative here. MSU lost Tillman to the NBA draft. This is a big hit to the team and there’s no positive way to spin this when you’re looking at the roster. To bring it back to the positive side of things, Mady Sissoko should come in and provide good minutes as a freshman. He’s got the size, wingspan, and defensive abilities to be a dominant big man and it’s only a matter of time before he makes his presence known.
Don’t expect this squad to play at the same level as they did last year right out of the gate. In fact, I expect this young team to struggle for a while as they get into stride, but the potential that these young men possess is through the roof.