EAST LANSING - Michigan State's season ended last night in disappointing blowout fashion to the Memphis Tigers, but MSU can take some solace in knowing they will field a more talented, squad in '08-'09 thanks to the infusion of three top-100 players and the return of four top seniors.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo has to be heartened by the performance of freshman shooting guard Chris Allen who was crushed by the loss.
Allen's 20-point performance is what one would have expected out of a senior like Drew Neitzel. Instead, the freshman showed that he won't be awed by the bigger stage.
He has to improve his consistency by taking on the challenge to score on a nightly basis, but at 6-foot-3, he won't have the same struggles to get his shot of as the departing (6-foot) Neitzel and figures to be the starter next year at the off guard position.
Look for Allen to be backed up by fellow freshman Durrell Summers and sophomore Isaiah Dahlman will likely get another look.
Senior to be Travis Walton returns as perhaps the Big Ten's best perimeter defender but its Kalin Lucas, who'll provide leadership, scoring and a never-quit attitude. He'll be joined by Milwaukee St. Pius point guard Korey Lucious giving the Spartans a deep and talented group.
Up front, MSU will be hurt badly by the loss of underrated and unselfish Drew Naymick. Naymick could have been a double-double type player had he asserted himself more on the offensive end, but deferred, perhaps to a fault to Neitzel and the other scorers.
Senior to be Idong Ibok will probably get first crack at the job, but redshirt freshman Tom Herzog will also get worked into the rotation. A four-star prospect finishing up his second year in MSU's strength and conditioning program, Herzog has put on 15 pounds of muscle and now ought to be ready for the rigors of Big Ten competition.
Senior to be Goran Suton saved one of his best games for the season finale and showed flashes of what he could be if he can shed his "elevator-like" consistency. Suton led MSU with 23 points and nine boards and didn't shy away from banging with the physical Tigers.
He'll be entrenched at the power forward position and if Izzo decides to go small, could slide into the starting center position. One thing's for sure, Suton will be a starter next season.
Here's where things get interesting, MSU has a number of options at the wing or small forward position.
Raymar Morgan might be expected to be the starter, but with two star forwards (incoming freshmen) Delvon Roe and Saginaw's Draymond Green entering the picture things could change. If Roe is completely healthy, he will offer a strong challenge to Morgan.
Izzo might be reluctant to start a true freshman, but he has done it, including starting Kalin Lucas for a large portion of this season.
What is more likely is that Morgan would start, but Roe could eventually chip away at his minutes. Look for Green to get a shot at backing up at both forward positions. Senior to be Marquise Gray has to decide if he'll live up to the accolades he received as a four-star prospect out of Flint Beecher.
It will be interesting to see if either of Izzo's top assistants, Mark Montgomery or Mike Garland is approached about the University of Detroit Jesuit head coaching position.
Would either leave the cozy confines of an annual top 15 program for a total rebuilding job at a place where the recruiting scene looks bleak if offered? If so, where would Izzo turn to fill the void.
Those are question for a future day, but if there's a silver lining in every cloud, looking at next year's lineup card out to bring out a sliver of sunshine for Coach Izzo.
Despite Loss, Future Looks Bright For MSU
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