What caused the Spartans' success to ebb in the first place, and how were they able to fix it?
That’s the question we posed to our national recruiting panel this week.
Evan Daniels: They got back to what they've always been good at: Keeping local kids home. Two of the focal points of this class (Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston) are from Michigan. And they also are hot and heavy with Josh Jackson, who grew up an hour from Michigan State's campus.
But it's certainly more than just that. Their assistant coaches did a great job of identifying their type of guys. Josh Langford was an early pledge and someone Dane Fife recruited heavily and beat out some serious competition to land. Same with Nick Ward. They identified him earlier and went after him hard.
Josh Gershon: There are a lot of false promises being sold to recruits in college basketball, but Tom Izzo's track record speaks for itself. If you play for him, you're going to be coached by one of the best head coaches in college basketball - period.
I also think the success of Draymond Green as an underdog turned NBA champion, to go along with his big contract, probably helps Izzo's reputation, along with Green giving back to the school. Add all that to the some of these kids being local and/or natural fits for Izzo's system and it's a perfect storm for Michigan State having more success recruiting.
Brian Snow: I think you can look too far into it if you want as an outsider, but the reality is they just missed. They swung for the fences and missed. They were a big early leader for Cliff Alexander and things fell apart, and then of course it is tough to win battles for Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. At the end of the day they missed on key kids, and really didn't go after too many backup options.
However, recently the key kids haven't been from Chicago, they have been from Michigan, and Izzo was able to get them. I think the staff learned lessons on who to prioritize, but in general I just think it was one of those deals like Kansas had a few years ago where they just missed, and there was no incredibly specific reason why.
Rob Harrington: A very easy answer is that’s difficult to beat Duke or Kansas for a player in Chicago, and that fact explains several of the highest profile misses. That said, to the extent a systemic issue did exist, I think Michigan State was slower to adapt to the relentless pressure now applied to coaches recruiting likely one-and-done players. We’ve observed this phenomenon at other programs as well during the post-Calipari to Kentucky era. But clearly they’ve made some key adjustments.
It’s also easy to overthink this stuff. The bottom line is that the random luck of geography plays a critical role in recruiting — particularly for public schools — and Michigan natives such as Bridges and Winston are right in MSU’s wheelhouse. At any rate, it’s certainly been fun to watch the Spartans build such a monster class.
Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this article