Tom Izzo's Best Teams on the Horizon?


Tom Izzo has done more than any other coach in MSU basketball history. He has one national title, five final fours, and the most wins in the storied program’s history. He has brought All-Americans to East Lansing time and time again. But could this incoming recruiting class be his best ever? He said as much when he introduced the class.


Four scholarships available. Four top-notch athletes committed. Four different positions. All four hailing from the Midwest. Three top 100 rated players. The four players to being green and white next year are: Adreian Payne, a 6’9” power forward, Keith Appling, a 6’3” point guard, Russell Byrd, a 6’7” shooting guard and Alex Gauna, a 6’8” center.


Those four Midwestern stars have given Tom Izzo, and the Spartan Nation a top 5 recruiting class in all of college basketball. Add this to the fact that the previous five players Izzo has brought to East Lansing (Delvon Roe, Draymond Green, Korie Lucious, Garrick Sherman, and Derrick Nix) have also been top 100 players, and you have a team loaded with talent.


When the 2010-11 basketball season arrives with the Spartans parting ways with only graduates Raymar Morgan, Isaiah Dahlman, and Jon Crandell, (others could leave early for the NBA) you have a team loaded with experience and talent. It could be the team that has been there and done that. And it could be the team that takes Tom Izzo to his third consecutive Final Four, the second time in his career.


So if rankings don’t tell the whole story, how could one rate an incoming recruit? Who has offered that player scholarships is how we rate athletes at Spartan Nation. College scouts are getting better and better and that leads to the best teams offering the best players scholarships. 


Payne turned down offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, among others to come to Spartan Nation. Appling turned down Tennessee – a team known for its offensive prowess. Byrd chose the Spartans over Kentucky, Louisville, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Wake Forest.  And Gauna decided against Indiana, LSU, and Xavier.


ESPN declared that Payne, “could be the most talented big man Michigan State has ever recruited.” That speaks volumes for Payne with the post players to come before him – including current players Green and Roe. National pundits also think Gauna could develop into a Goran Suton type player. Combine these big men with a solid point guard in Appling and a deadly accurate shooter in Byrd, and you have a team of recruits many D-1 teams would try to start as freshman!


The team that Izzo is assembling could be the most talented he has ever coached – and that should scare every other college program in the nation seeing what he has done with his past teams. This team could be why Izzo had the glass display case installed with room for another National Championship trophy.


This season could have big implications for next season, though. If they continue improving and make their way back to the title game, a lot could happen. They could lose the title game and create a stronger desire in the underclassmen to win a championship – leading to Lucas and Summers to forgo turning pro in hopes of capturing Michigan State’s third national title. Or they could win the title game and create a sudden emptying of the roster with Lucas, Summers and perhaps Green deciding they have done all they can at the college level. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen – regardless of this season’s outcome.


For the hopes of all Spartan fans, let’s just imagine a team having lost only Morgan, Dahlman, and Crandell. A team with four of the nation’s best recruits coming on board. A team with a future Hall-of-Fame coach at the helm.  A team that has the chance of being one of the best college teams ever assembled. A team every Spartan fan wants to watch.