A huge congratulations is due to the Michigan State football team, who walked off Spartan Stadium for the last time this season with a victory. While I don’t want Harlon Barnett on the sidelines next year, he has been a staple of this program for a long time and he deserves to taste victory as the interim head coach. The players played tough, and made the little plays when they needed; something that has been missing for the last six weeks.
It’s also a perfect ending as pretty much every Spartan fan will now turn their attention to the Michigan State basketball team.
The last few years have been disappointing, but only because the standard is so high for Tom Izzo and his squad. They were mere fingertips away from an Elite Eight, and maybe further as the teams that made the Final Four could have been picked from a hat, they were so random.
But the expectations are especially high this year. With four returning starters, five returning players who averaged 20-plus minutes, and a top four recruiting class coming in, these Spartans have all the makings of a national title team.
Here are some things I think we’ll see this season that define the Spartans’ title run.
1. Improved rebounding
Rebounding has been a staple of all the Tom Izzo teams and for good reason. For the last 10 years, if Michigan State ranks first or second in rebounding, they have won the Big Ten regular season title.
Last season, they ranked eighth in the conference and was an obvious disadvantage during critical stretches of games (Purdue not withstanding). A lot of fans begged Izzo to get an athletic center in the portal last year and really could have helped this team. Mady Sissoko is extremely athletic, but just isn’t quite as comfortable with a basketball in his hands and we saw sparks of what the combo of Jaxon Kohler and Carson Cooper could do, but youth and inexperience held them back.
With one more year under the trio’s belt along with 6-foot-11 freshman phenom Xavier Booker, the Spartans will look to get back into the top 10 nationally and challenge Purdue as the top rebounding team in the Big Ten.