3. A Final Four, at minimum
Looking at the last new national champions’ rosters, it’s evident that a team needs a mix of experience and high-level talent. Last year’s UConn team had a starting five consisting of a freshman, a sophomore, two juniors, and a senior. And 2022’s Kansas team had a sophomore, two juniors, and two seniors. Lastly, 2021 Baylor’s team had a wild combo of three juniors and two seniors.
With Tyson Walker back, The Spartans will likely go with four seniors and a junior as their main starters throughout the season.
We already know what Tyson Walker is capable of and should be in the conversation of Big Ten Player of the Year the entire season. A.J. Hoggard won’t be the most talented player on the court, but that doesn’t mean he can be the best on the court in certain games. He has an edge to him and when he wants to take over the game, he can. Jaden Akins is the most NBA-ready player on this team. He’s their elite defender, can shoot from anywhere on the court.
As mentioned before, Mady Sissoko has another year of experience and was impressive early in the season last year. If he finds consistency, the paint will look a lot better than last year. Malik Hall could be a dark-horse NBA pick if he stays healthy and plays smart. He’s uber-athletic, has shooting ablilty, but just needs to learn how to finish when driving to the basket instead of getting stuck half-way there only to turn it over.
The bench has to be one of the deepest in recent memory.
We obviously know that Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, and Xavier Booker should provide valuable minutes in the front court and Tre Holloman is expected to make a nice leap from years one to two.
Then there’s the freshmen. Coen Carr will get minutes when a starter goes into foul trouble or is just having an off-night. He showed in the Tennessee game that he can bring energy, highlights, and tenacity off the bench and will only get better as the season goes on.
Then there’s four-star recruit Jeremy Fears Jr. His talent is widely known but Izzo gave him the ultimate compliment when he said Fears had “Mateen Cleaves-like leadership”. Having someone that young that you can trust on the court to give the starters and upperclassmen a break is a huge asset to this team and can ultimately make the difference in being a good team that makes the Sweet 16 to a team that can win it all.