Spartan Basketball Moves on and Here is an Early Look at 2010-2011

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The emergence of Derrick Nix is critical in 2010-11 and all signs are that he is ready.  Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

The emergence of Derrick Nix is critical in 2010-11 and all signs are that he is ready. Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

So the Chris Allen saga has played out. A number of fans want more information about Chris’s dismissal, but I don’t expect we’ll hear much more than the rumor mill chatter on message boards. All that we need to know is that he didn’t meet the criteria set forth by our future Hall of Fame coach and so he is no longer a part of the MSU roster. That’s good enough for me. Good luck to Chris. The Spartan Nation wishes you well.

Like most stories lacking finality and a happy ending, there is another one waiting to be told. What does this mean for next year’s team? Well, to be completely honest with you, I think it actually improves MSU’s chances in March. I suspect it will help team chemistry a lot. I don’t think Raymar’s graduation will set them back in this area either.

It was obvious that there were some extenuating circumstances involving players last season. Coach Izzo has not downplayed this one bit. I think that last year’s team gelled too late in the season to win the whole thing. Even with Lucas out and the other injuries we had, I think we really should have beaten Butler and taken Duke to the wire. I think this 2010-11 Michigan State team is the best team in the country. Let me again stress the word TEAM.

Leadership is usually the difference between Final Four appearances and National Championships. The leader of this team took over during last season’s NCAA tournament as merely a sophomore. Draymond Green is the leader of this squad. He proved his worth down the stretch with clutch baskets, grabbing rebounds and making passes when his team needed him the most. He rallied his team when they needed a coach on the floor.

I know Kalin was becoming a more active leader on this team before his injury, but I think this was Draymond’s team by the time the conference schedule settled in. Much like MSU’s 2000 team, this team needed to discover it could win games without their point guard. Remember, Mateen was out with a broken foot before the conference schedule started. MSU went into UNC in 1999 and beat the Tar Heels badly on their home floor. The experience MSU’s other players gained with Lucas out, will lead them back to the Final Four and ultimately to a 2011 National Championship.

It is a bold prediction, but this is coming from a guy who picked MSU in the Final Four the last two years. I simply look at what we have returning. I look at what we have coming in. I look at the way some key people performed in the tournament last season. I also look at the stability of this team’s leadership and the way they gutted out a lot of close games last year. Don’t discount the return of college basketball’s best coach. This team is built for a National Championship run.

MSU is loaded. They are loaded everywhere. Upfront, they return a slimmer, trimmer Derrick Nix who at times last season gave you a glimpse of MSU’s future ten and ten guy (10 points, 10 rebounds).

Delvon Roe has been waiting his entire MSU career to play a season healthy. It appears that he may get his wish. He gave a warrior’s effort in the tournament last season on a bum knee that appears to finally be in good shape. Roe will have a monster year for MSU. They will run more set plays for him because he is a huge mismatch with his quickness.

Draymond Green is Draymond Green. He is MSU’s point / power / small forward that does everything. If he isn’t a first team All Big Ten selection this season, it is because he has such a good supporting cast that he cannot score enough points to beat a lesser player on another team that has better stats. He is the guy that makes it all work.

Garrick Sherman had a solid first year at Michigan State. He has spent the off-season getting stronger. He will be a big asset for the Spartans this year. He has great touch around the goal and is assertive with the basketball in scoring position.

Adreian Payne is the freshman phenom from Dayton, Ohio. He is 6’10 and somewhere around 225 pounds. He is an athlete. He dunks everything he gets his hands on around the goal. Like all freshman that play for Tom Izzo, defense will determine Payne’s minutes. He could be very special by the time the NCAA tournament starts. Incoming freshman Alex Gauna is skilled, but will probably redshirt this year with the depth this team has.

In the backcourt, the biggest question going into the season will be, who takes Chris Allen’s minutes? The answer is probably a combination of things. I believe that part of the answer revolves around Kalin Lucas’ progress (torn Achilles). Everything points to Kalin being on track to heal in time for the season, but six months is a long time to be away from basketball.

Korie Lucious’ emergence as a legitimate floor general during the tournament should allow them to bring Kalin along gradually. He can regain his basketball skills and composure at a comfortable pace. With Allen’s departure, I expect Kalin and Korie to play together more this season. This is especially true if MSU goes small and goes with a three-guard line-up. Both these guys are capable ball handlers. Both are capable passers and both are solid shooters. Two good point guards are better than one.

This brings me to Durrell Summers. Summers was Mister Clutch during MSU’s tourney run. Something clicked between Durrell and Coach Izzo during the tournament. Summers is a prototypical NBA shooting guard. I am not sure why he continues to show up on rosters as 6’4” tall. Every time I see him next to his teammates, he looks like he is closer to 6’6. He could lead MSU in scoring this season. He should average between 13-15 points and somewhere around six boards. He could become the Big Ten’s premier shooting guard if he can keep his confidence high. He will need to play more minutes now that Allen is gone.

Austin Thornton and Mike Kebler are Tom’s defensive reserves. They are stabilizers when MSU needs defensive effort. Thornton is a capable small forward / shooting guard that gives maximal effort. Kebler is a system point guard that knows his job. Tom played both of these guys during crunch time last year and won’t hesitate to do it again.

This brings me to MSU’s backcourt newcomers, Keith Appling and Russell Byrd. Appling is a 6’2” combo guard from Detroit, Michigan. He is a legitimate point guard, but is also a scoring threat. He is a McDonald’s All-American and is very skilled. Kalin’s early season status could play a huge part in Appling’s freshman season. He will have to learn how to defend the Izzo way, but he could really help alleviate any pressure that Kalin is feeling to come back quickly to 30-plus minute form.

Byrd is a shooter. Everyone that has watched Byrd knows that he will bury it from distance. You will find numerous clips of the 6’7” redhead dropping 3’s from six feet beyond the arc. He was worked very hard defensively and could take up a lot of the minutes that Allen was expected to get. Defense will ultimately determine Russell’s time on the court, but his ability to stretch defenses beyond the perimeter make him MSU’s “X-factor” going into the season. I like this kid. I think he is going to surprise a lot of people if he is healthy.

Here are my projected starting line-up’s for the 2010-11 season:

Big Line-up

5) Derrick Nix

4) Delvon Roe

3) Draymond Green

2) Durrell Summers

1) Kalin Lucas

Small Line-up

5) Delvon Roe    6’8”, 230#

4) Draymond Green 6’6”, 245#

3) Durrell Summers           6’6”, 205#

2) Korie Lucious           5’10”, 170#

1) Kalin Lucas            6’0”, 180#

What matters most? Neither. The biggest reason is that Izzo is back we all know that the NBA is about players, but college is about coaches and the Spartan Nation has the best.