Michigan State Spartans
2019-20 record: 22-9, 14-6 in the Big Ten
Head coach: Tom Izzo
Tenure at Michigan State: 25th season
Career coaching record: 628-241
Home court: Breslin Center
Starters: G Rocket Watts, G Joshua Langford, F Aaron Henry, F Joey Hauser, F Marcus Bingham Jr.
Bench: G Foster Loyer, G Davis Smith, F Thomas Kithier, F Malik Hall, F Julius Marble II, F Gabe Brown
Overview: Coming off a season that saw the program return to the Final Four after beating a Zion Williamson-led Duke in the Regional Final, the Spartans entered 2019-20 as the No. 1 team in the nation. In spite of the hype, Michigan State struggled out of the gates, dropping the opener in the Champions Classic to then-No. 2 Kentucky and losing to two other non-conference opponents, including then-No. 10 Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Once conference play began, however, the Spartans put everything together. Led by program legend Cassius Winston at point guard, Michigan State was able to weather the storm of three straight Big Ten losses to end up with a 14-6 conference record and a share of the conference regular season title. When play was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spartans were a popular pick to make a deep run in March.
Now, Michigan State will have to fill the voids left by the departures of Winston and skilled forward Xavier Tillman. While it will obviously be difficult to replace those two, particularly Winston, the Spartans have enough talent, along with an all-time coach, to once again make a push for the Big Ten crown and a spot in the Final Four.
Rocket Watts, who served as Winston’s understudy last season, will be tasked with taking on more playmaking duties. Watts will be helped out by the presence of Joshua Langford and Aaron Henry, both of whom have been through it all during their time in East Lansing. One major X-factor is transfer forward Joey Hauser, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his only season at Marquette.
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Team ceiling: Hauser is going to have to assert himself on the interior in order for Michigan State to execute its high-low offense like usual. The Spartans will need their high-profile transfer to dominate the paint on a consistent basis. This will help to space the floor and allow guards like Watts and Langford to attack the rim.
Team floor: Watts fails to live up to expectations and is unable to run the show like Winston. The Spartans struggle with turnovers and efficiency as a result and miss out on a conference championship, as well as only being able to muster a Sweet Sixteen appearance at best.