It has undoubtedly been a rough month and half for Spartan fans after seeing their team, who was among the favorites to win the national title, upset by 15-seeded Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Following the stunning loss, Michigan State lost out on No. 1 recruit Josh Jackson as he committed to Kansas on Monday. Just to add insult to injury, freshman forward Deyonta Davis decided it was his time to jump to the NBA. Davis declared for the NBA Draft earlier this week and did indeed hire an agent which prevents any chance of him returning to MSU.
Fear not Spartan fans! Even without Josh Jackson, this could be Tom Izzo’s best recruiting class yet. With the likes of Miles Bridges, Josh Langford, Cassius Winston, and Nick Ward the Spartans will be among the favorites to win the Big Ten in 2016. With that said, let’s take a look at next year’s roster and the projected starting five for the 2016-17 season.
Projected Starting 5 for 2016-17:
PG Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn Jr. (Junior)
SG Eron Harris (RS Senior)
SF Miles Bridges (Freshman)
PF Nick Ward (Freshman)
C Gavin Schilling (Senior)
G Alvin Ellis III (Senior)
G Matt McQuaid (Sophomore)
G Kyle Ahrens (Sophomore)
G Joshua Langford (Freshman)
G Cassius Winston (Freshman)
F Kenny Goins (RS Sophomore)
It will be no easy feat replacing Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year finalist Denzel Valentine and long distance assassin Bryn Forbes, but the incoming freshman class combined with the return of experienced players should prevent too much of a drop off. Lourawls Nairn will be 100% healthy following a season where he had to deal with a plantar fasciitis. ‘Tum Tum’ played limited minutes down the stretch due to the injury, but will be back in the starting 5. Eron Harris had a good first season in East Lansing after transferring from West Virginia. Harris averaged 9.3 points per game in 2015, but expect that average to go up as Izzo will ask his senior guard to do much more in 2016.
UD-Jesuit point guard Cassius Winston will come off the bench as the primary backup to Nairn, which is great news for sophomore Matt McQuaid who can now shift back over to the 2-guard spot. Although Josh Langford will more than likely start the season coming off the bench, he will get his share of the minutes. Senior Alvin Ellis and sophomore Kyle Ahrens provide more depth for the Spartans who are rich in talent at the guard position.
Michigan State will be thin up front next season after losing transfers Marvin Clark and Javon Bess, as well as graduates Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. Plus the departure of freshman Deyonta Davis will be tough to overcome. Senior Gavin Schilling has the physical talent to be a dominant force on the block, but will he unlock his potential in 2016? Freshman Nick Ward will have to step into the starting 5 as a freshman, but at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds he should be able to manage. These two will not be alone as redshirt sophomore Kenny Goins will return in 2016. Goins, a former walk-on, played some big minutes during the regular season, but injured his knee. Goins returned just prior to the Big Ten Tournament, but unfortunately re-injured his knee in Indianapolis.
Another freshman starter will be Miles Bridges who is freakishly talented and will more than likely be a one-and-done for Michigan State. Bridges has the size to play down low, but the skill to play at the wing as well. Think Brandon Dawson, but as a better ball-handler and shooter.