Up or Down? 2018-19 Spartan Basketball Preview

Spencer Turkin

John Beilein and Tom Izzo visit in Ann Arbor prior to another hardcourt battle.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.
John Beilein and Tom Izzo visit in Ann Arbor prior to another hardcourt battle. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Up or Down? 2018-19 Spartan Basketball Preview

#11 Spartan basketball is sitting halfway up a steep mountain. Last season for a time Tom Izzo and the gang were perched at the top. Could they climb back up next season? This team dominated the Big Ten schedule last season and was a favorite to make the Final Four.

The Spartans are still a very good team and the betting odds from any sportsbook prove it. A big run in 2018 would not be a huge surprise. The in-state rival Michigan Wolverines were the one conference team the Spartans could not figure out last year. While the Spartans dominated the Big Ten regular-season title, Michigan won their second straight Tournament crown. Vegas has Michigan State dubbed 28-1 favorites to win the NCAA championship in the 2018-19 season, slightly worse than their in-state nemesis.

Are the Spartans Rebuilding or Reloading?

Vegas still pegs the Spartans as the 9th most likely team to win it all next year, so clearly the experts think it is a classic Izzo reloading season. Michigan State has lost their bona fide star, Miles Bridges, to the NBA. Bridges led the Spartans in both points and rebounds per game last year. The Spartans will also lose double-digit scorer Jaren Jackson Jr. and possibly fellow starter Nick Ward, depending on his decision to declare for the draft. Should Ward decide to leave as well, Izzo would lose 40 points and 20 rebounds per game.

Izzo was able to compile the 16th best-recruiting class for 2018-19, but it was done without landing a top-60 player. Miles Bridges will leave some awfully big shoes behind in East Lansing that none of the incoming Spartan freshmen are remotely close to stepping into. That doesn’t mean the Spartans will be bad, but it does mean that some things remain to be seen.

Setting the Rivalry With Michigan Straight

The Spartans measure the success of a season with a simple four-item checklist: Beating Michigan, Winning a Big Ten regular-season title, Winning a Big Ten tourney and making a long run in the Big Dance.

Despite losing plenty of talent to the draft himself, John Beilein has worked to secure the best recruiting class of his tenure. It is not as if the Spartans absolutely need to win the Big Ten next year, but they can use as much help as they can get from the ranking committee come March. That I why a rematch with Michigan is still on the mind of the Spartans. Renowned for his tournament prowess and remarkable consistency, Vegas predicts a good season for the Spartans.

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