MSU basketball: ’13-’14 review and early ’14-’15 preview

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We’ll always have the Rose Bowl. My advice to MSU basketball fans is to 1.) start drinking heavily, but I know you guys, so I now you’re already doing that. I don’t need to say it. and….2.) listen to Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t we almost have it all” on repeat.

“The ride with you was worth the fall, Tom Izzo.”

What makes yesterday’s upset loss to #7 seeded UConn so especially painful is that you and I know the team takes a step back next year. Gary Harris will almost certainly declare for the NBA Draft. Adriean Payne and Keith Appling are gone, and it’s all on Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine. And that’s just not enough.

So let’s do MSU basketball 2013-14 season preview and 2014-15 MSU basketball season preview at the same time.

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The Hype:

The pressure of  “if this senior class doesn’t make a Final Four, it will be the first one under Tom Izzo to have never made one” Yes, every player who stayed in East Lansing for four years has been to at least one Final Four. They also got off to the best start in school history: 18-1 start best in school history. State was preseason #2, Kentucky was preseason #1, and when the Spartans beat the Wildcats in my hometown, I saw the earliest #1 vs #2 in college basketball history from press row.

However, this team had so many injuries that Tom Izzo had to use 15 starting lineups. Injury became a cliche as MSU basketball advanced to the Elite 8 but got eliminated yesterday, ending the year 29-9, 12-6 in the Big Ten.

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2013-14 MSU basketball will sadly not be remembered for their victories, or even the issues they had getting/keeping everyone healthy. They will be remembered as perhaps the trendiest favorite in NCAA Tournament history that fell short of the ultimate prize. When the Spartans dominated the Big Ten Tournament, everyone and I mean EVERYONE picked them to win it all: the President, all five ESPN college hoops experts. Despite being a #4 seed, they were given the second best odds behind Florida at the sports books.

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season highlights:

Signature wins over Texas, Kentucky I guess? Ohio State, at Iowa, owning the Big Ten Tournament; including a demolishing of two very good teams in Wisconsin and Michigan. MSU basketball has wins over half the Final Four, and three of the Elite 8. They also “upset” a #1 seed. Beating a #1 seed is never easy…unless it’s ’13 Gonzaga.

Izzo has had lots of anti-Twitter rants this year. And they’re gold. Bashing social media is one of his favorite topics. Then there was this gem at Northwestern:

“we’re a soft society, these kids are in the 23rd place trophy generation”

In addition to some big wins, this Izzo was even more winning the press conference than he usually. He often tells it like it is and inspires “good copy.” Never more so than in ’13-’14.

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season lowlights:

Keith Appling, like Kalin Lucas is a story that doesn’t end well. Marcus Taylor ended even worse. So that’s three blue chip MSU point guard prospects who peaked in the midst of their college careers, and finished on a down note. Hey, not everybody gets to be Mateen Cleaves in life. It’s just the way it is. Cleaves didn’t have a pro career, but he did more in the NBA than Appling will do or Lucas did.

Or as our David Kmiecik put it in his NBA Draft stock report:

I have a better chance of getting seduced by Minka Kelly then Appling does of getting drafted. Look at his numbers during Sparty’s four NCAA Tournament games: 10 points, 12 assists, 9 turnovers. His constant ups and downs and poor decision-making drove Tom Izzo nuts for four years and I can’t imagine an NBA general manager seeing him and saying, “we need to draft him.”

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Also, there was that home loss to Illinois.

“the energy level was at an all time worst, the assist to turnover ratio was a joke,” Izzo said of the loss to the 5-10 at the time Illini. Harris was a one man team in that game, everyone else looked loss or awful or both as Illinois led wire to wire. The seven point margin of defeat doesn’t do justice to what a decisive loss it was. In the final 80 or 90 seconds State didn’t even bother fouling the Illini. Even though it was just a 7 point game. They literally gave up.

MSU basketball rock bottom point:

That would be March 30th, around 3:40 PM CST.

MSU basketball future:

Who was this Keith Appling and what did they do with the real version? Yes, he’s injured, but he ended up actually hurting the team now more than helping. He was brutal when it mattered most. Braden Dawson was the heart and soul of the Spartans this year and he will be the focal point next year. Adreian Payne failed Sparty Nation in the UConn loss.

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The Tom Izzo to the Detroit Pistons fake story/rumor created to draw attention and sell newspapers/boost ratings: Charles Barkley spoke for me when he said “He’s a good guy, he’s a smart man. He’s not that stupid to take that Pistons job.”

Gone: Payne, Appling, Harris (the press release will be going out any day now)

Returning: Valentine, Dawson, Travis Trice, Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminski and a bunch of guys.

Recruiting: Jalen Rose is either lying or ignorant when it comes to his “analysis” of Izzo’s recruiting. Rose is light years off the mark when he said that Izzo didn’t go all in on the blue chip recruits. Hello, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor…how many games did he attend of there’s?

For the second year in a row, we have no future members of MSU basketball in the McDonald’s All-American game. The incoming class is nothing special. However, there is a four star point guard in Lourawls Nairn. Yes, that is not a nickname. As Ha Ha Clinton-Dix exits college sports, Lourawls Nairn enters. Make your Key&Peele style jokes accordingly. There’s also a pair of three star small forwards: Javone Bess has signed, Marvin Clark has committed but not signed.

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’14-’15 MSU basketball outlook: Denzel Valentine is versatile shooting guard who does a little bit of everything and the top candidate to fill the leadership role in the program. It’s a void that’s been around since Draymond Green left. Coincidentally, there’s a lot Valentine-Green analogies out there. Leadership was such an issue this past season that Izzo didn’t even name a captain.

Dawson can consider an early jump to the NBA, and he’s certainly helped his stock with an impressive March. However, I don’t think he’s ready. I doubt he leaves East Lansing. I also doubt this team cracks the top 15 in the preseason polls. They should be top 20 or top 25 though. It is after all MSU basketball, and it will always be a brand. With Indiana having major issues over the past few years, MSU basketball is the destination program of the Big Ten. That won’t be changing any time soon.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks is a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, who’s been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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