Freshmen Alvin Ellis and Gavin Schilling might sneak into this race.
Ellis, a 3-star rated shooting guard, has impressed thus far.
Spartans assistant Dane Fife recently said the following about Ellis' progress (via MLive.com's Diamond Leung):
He's got to learn the X's and O's and all those things, but we're...really pleased with Alvin Ellis and his progress. He's got quite a few guys that he's competing with for playing time, but nonetheless, I think that Alvin's ball skills, Alvin's creativity...he's a playmaker. And I think for years to come, the Michigan State fan base is going to be very excited watching him.
That description has "sixth man of the year" written all over it. But the same can be said for Schilling, a 3-star power forward.
Fife said the following about Schilling (via Leung):
There's a certain way that we expect Michigan State players to play, and Gavin, that's his foundation. Now learning what we do offensively and defensively and our philosophy takes time as it will in every program, but Gavin's got a great base in terms of what Michigan State Spartans have as a foundation.
That's been the impressive part. Gavin's tough. He's physical. He's not afraid of contact. He's willing to learn and very coachable, so we're really pleased with that.
That's promising talk from Fife, who knows all about guys who bang in the trenches. He was known for doing so during his basketball career.
Ellis and Schilling are viable candidates for sixth-man honors, but don't forget about Denzel Valentine. Travis Trice could also be an option. Valentine, though, seems the most likely. He led the Spartans' bench with five points per game last season and provided excellent passing and post defense.
At 6'5", Valentine isn't afraid to wander into the paint and trade blows. He's a fit just about anywhere on the floor.
As for the most improved, well, that's also difficult to predict. But let's assume that Harris has an incredible season and claims national awards. He'd take the team's MIP award without issue. However, sophomore center Matt Costello could duke it out with Harris for the hardware.
Costello, a 6'9" former Bay City Western standout, showed an upped level of play during the NCAA tournament. If that style carries over to this season, he'll be contender for MIP and/or sixth man trophies.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81