Michigan State Basketball: 5 Improvements Spartans Must Make for Next Season

Jim Sullivan@jsully711Featured ColumnistApril 14, 2012

Michigan State Basketball: 5 Improvements Spartans Must Make for Next Season

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    As the Spartans head into the bulk of their offseason, there is still much work to be done. A tough loss to Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen has Tom Izzo and crew yearning for success, but steps must be taken to ensure that it, once again, comes about.

    Taking home the Big Ten Tournament Title, Michigan State was led by an impressive senior in Draymond Green. Unfortunately, him and three other major players are moving onto the NBA, leaving a deep hole in the Spartan line-up.

    Despite such losses, we take a look at what improvements Izzo and this powerhouse program must make to stay in the running for the championship next season.  

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    Last season, the Spartans were easily one of the top teams in the country, snaring the fourth overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Leading them was senior Draymond Green, the 6'7" forward who racked up a solid 16 points and 11 rebounds per game.

    Green may have made a majority of his points in the paint, but his ability to drive and score off the dribble classified him more as a guard than any kind of post player. Supporting him down low were centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, a junior and a sophomore, respectively.

    Together, they added 37 minutes, 15 points, and eight rebounds per game. This is a considerably weak showing, especially considering their massive size of 6'9" and 6'10". As a result, some of the load needs to fall to 6'9" sophomore Alex Gauna.

    Both Nix and Payne need to come out of the gate strong if the Spartans are going to be as successful next season as they were this one. The loss of Draymond Green will be devastating to both statistical categories of points and rebounds, making it a necessity for the Spartan frontcourt to drastically improve. 

Avoid Conference Upsets

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    After MSU took on two losses to start off the season last year, they rampaged through the rest of the non-conference slate. Abounding into the Big Ten after a 11 game win streak, the Spartans brought Indiana their first loss and followed up by taking down Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa. 

    Shortly afterward, however, Northwestern upset the highly ranked Spartans with a 81-74 victory. In a conference as tight as the Big Ten, losses to such teams can kill one's chances at a regular season title. Later during the year, a close one-point fall to Illinois, another non-tournament squad, cut into the Spartans' success. 

    These tough upsets have to be avoided at all costs next season. The occasional loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, or even Purdue is more than acceptable, but such upsets can't be tolerated for true success to occur.  

Get Higher Production out of Incoming Recruits

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    Last season, the seven freshman and redshirt freshman contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. Most of that production came out of 5-star recruit Branden Dawson, leaving the other six to a minimal amount of actual statistics.

    This upcoming year, Michigan State has four recruits committed to them, one in 5-star big shot Gary Harris, two 4-stars with Matt Costello and Denzel Valentine, and finally a 3-star in Kenny Kaminski. Each of them, along with the few more who will make the roster, have to create more of an impact next season.

    This improvement would create a threat like none other as Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague all proved this past year. 

Cut Down on Turnovers

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    Every season, there are always areas of the game that every team can improve upon. Turnovers is certainly one of those categories.

    For the Spartans, however, they succeeded in having one of the worst ratios in the nation. Allowing 13 turnovers per game, they were the fourth worst in the Big Ten. While MSU still succeeded despite this, improving it would greatly spur on their ability to win.

Replace Draymond Green

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    While most any superstar is irreplaceable, and Draymond Green is no different, finding out who will take his place is a huge deal for Michigan State. While "improvement" isn't exactly the right word, this is certainly a necessity for the Spartans' success next season. 

    The position has many candidates ranging from incoming 5-star recruit Gary Harris to sophomore guard Travis Trice. Personally, I look forward to seeing who naturally emerges as the leader of this powerful program as it will be a huge factor in whether or not MSU can repeat their great 2011-12 season.