Jabari Parker Decision: Why Michigan State Is Still a 2014 Final Four Threat
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Guards have typically driven the Michigan State Spartans to success.
However, Izzo and the Spartans failed on Thursday to gain the commitment of Parker, Chicago Simeon's star forward and unanimous top-three player in the land. According to some college basketball analysts, he may even be the top talent to come out of the Windy City in some time.
Parker would have certainly been a monumental pickup for Michigan State, even better than former Proviso East (Ill.) phenom Shannon Brown (2003), Izzo's only previous, consensus top-three player.
But Parker opted for Duke instead, picking coach Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils over Stanford, Florida and BYU during his televised press conference on ESPNU in front of a packed gym at Simeon High.
Spartans hoops will have to find a way to move forward—which will happen, obviously.
Is MSU a Final Four threat in 2014?
Izzo is known for doing wonders with 3-star and 4-star recruits. Landing guys like Parker—guys all but destined for the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world—hasn't been Izzo's calling card. But he's recently lured in 5-stars like Gary Harris and Branden Dawson, made legends of 3-stars like Draymond Green and even groomed "average" guards like Kalin Lucas into bonafide National Player of the Year candidates.
Michigan State will be fine without Parker. The pulse of Spartans basketball (Izzo) will continue to beat, and the Spartans will still be a favorite to reach the 2014 Final Four. Yes, even without the biggest prep sensation since LeBron James, who Izzo also recruited.
Looking at what Izzo now has in East Lansing suggests that the Spartans could be primed for a run this year.
But next year looks all the better. Imagine Harris' development, Dawson's continuation of physical dominance and an even faster Keith Appling. Oh, and another year for Travis Trice, a budding defender.
And if Adreian Payne finally morphs into the player he's capable of being, Michigan State will have one of the most athletic post men in the country to complement its stable of top-tier guards.
Star power... The Spartans still have it
Gary Harris has the ability to be one of the top scoring guards in the Big Ten... this year. Next year, he'll be one of the elite underclassmen in the NCAA.
Just a freshman, Harris is second in team scoring (12.6 points per game), behind only Keith Appling, a junior and assumed leader of Michigan State that averages 15 a night.
The Harris-Appling pair is almost scary. Appling's speed is fuel for Harris' exceptional transition game, and his defense only puts more pressure on opposing guards, allowing Harris to showcase Charlie Bell-like disruptions.
Denzel Valentine sees the floor like Magic Johnson did, according to Izzo. Valentine, a former Lansing Sexton star and Mr. Basketball candidate, has three more years to bloom into homegrown star for the Spartans.
What about the front lines?
The Spartans haven't had a dominant center since Paul Davis, that is, if you want to consider him "dominant." Davis was an All-American in high school and had a respectable career with Michigan State, which still hasn't landed the ultimate center under Izzo.
The guards push the Spartans. Without Derrick Nix in 2013-14, the Spartans could find themselves in a painful position when it comes to winning battles in the paint and on the boards.
Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminsky and Alex Gauna will have to further extend their games to encompass the void left by Nix (maybe Gauna will mimick Goran Suton in the body-banger department?). But remember, Payne will be a senior, so the Spartans won't be without some type of rebound-gobbling presence.
Michigan State won't roll over teams because of size advantage. However, the Spartans are great at wearing down teams with crippling defense. The bigs just need to make sure they clean up shots, help win possession battles and give the guards space to work in order for Michigan State to keep running along.
Parker was grand prize... but...
Sure, every college fanbase wants its program to get the top guy. It's only natural. Michigan State fans really thought Parker was in the bag. That speculation reached its apex when the Lansing State Journal mistakingly published a shell story prior to Parker's announcement saying the Chicago prep chose Michigan State.
That story was published at 2:40 p.m. Thursday, nearly 90 minutes prior to Parker's press conference.
Getting the No. 1's and No. 2's out of high school is some coaches' bread and butter. That's never been the case for Izzo, whose Final Four resume and NCAA Tournament success speaks for itself. Izzo, though, is often criticized by the ardent Spartans basketball followers for one reason and one reason only: Michigan State doesn't get elite players on a year-in, year-out basis.
And maybe those aren't the types who succeed in East Lansing. Just ask former Flint Northwestern star Kelvin Torbert, who entered Michigan State as the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2001.
Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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