Michigan State Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2013-14 Spartans
Pressure is always on Michigan State to perform, but this year, the level of expectations are near a high.
Not only does Spartans coach Tom Izzo stand to lose two key seniors in Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, he could also see the departure of sophomore Gary Harris and junior Branden Dawson.
After they go, Michigan State will be down to a minimum in terms of star power.
This season, of course, should be the season that most fans anticipated for this group. Just two years ago, the popular talk among Spartans fans went a little something like this:
"Wait until Appling and Payne's senior year. With Dawson and Harris...Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine...plus a couple of young guys. That'll be a title-contending team."
It just so turns out that 2013-14 is indeed that time. And those "couple of young guys" are Gavin Schilling, a 6'9" power forward, and Alvin Ellis, a 6'4" shooting guard.
This slideshow will highlight and analyze the talent that Izzo has to work with as he quests for his seventh Final Four since 1999.
Ellis and Schilling aside, Kenny Kaminski could actually turn out to be the top "new guy" this season.
He redshirted in 2012-13 due to a shoulder injury. Despite the setback, the versatile, 6'8" forward has grown into one of the team's better shooters; however, due to academic reasons, he won't play in the season opener.
Izzo explained his reasoning to Diamond Leung of MLive.com.
What I decided is if I don't at least keep him out of one regular season game, it's like 'big deal,' you know?
Those of you that have seen practices lately, he still might be our best shooter, although he's got to learn to guard somebody. We'll try to get him to do both.
Russell Byrd, who is widely considered the team's other best shooter, is due for...something. His career has been painful thus far, but Byrd can be considered a "new guy" for one reason: He's never been a regular, partly to due to injury and poor outing. He sees more minutes on the bench during one game than he sees on the floor in one season.
Think about that.
He was once revered as another hot-shooting Indiana marksman. Larry Bird? Robbie Hummel? Maybe not, but he definitely had a stroke of good shots.
The trouble has been in finding it during game time.
Imagine a Spartans roster with shooters-a-plenty. Add a rangy Byrd and/or Kaminski to a three-popping Harris...that could be a lights-out night. That'd be an entrance, finally, for Byrd and an introduction to Kaminski.
European-style meets Big Ten basketball. That'll be a combination to watch. At 6'9" and 240 pounds, the former 3-star recruit possesses great ball skills and a decent shooting ability. Defense is another strength, so power in the paint won't be absent now that Derrick Nix has moved onto greener pastures.
He's kind of lanky at 195 pounds, but the former 3-star 2-guard has the physical tools to put up points. Already deep at guard, it'll be interesting to see what Izzo does with Ellis, who'll compete for minutes with Trice and Valentine.
As a unit, the Spartans are full of key returning players: Dawson, Trice, Valentine and Costello, among others.
But the big two are Harris and Payne, both conference and national player of the year candidates.
Harris is the real deal, obviously. Mentioned along with the country's finest, Harris' presence alone makes Michigan State one of the most dangerous clubs in college hoops.
The same goes for Payne, who has a unique style all his own. Not always the most graceful, Payne's lanky frame and athleticism allows for rebounds most don't dare to attempt. He can block and shoot. He's paired with one of the game's best shooters.
Success? They're in position for that. The Spartans are Final Four-bound when it has a "program" guard at the helm.
Sounds like that's the case this year.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Gary Harris "could be one of the best guards I've ever coached."— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) October 31, 2013
Roster and Projected Rotation
At this point, you're probably looking for a lineup.
Heights. Weights. Class. That sort of stuff.
You got it.
|Alex Gauna||6'9"/240||JR (RS)||C/F|
|Russell Byrd||6'7"/205||JR (RS)||G|
|Kenny Kaminski||6'8"/240||FR (RS)||F|
|Dan Chapman||6'3"/190||SR (W/O)||G|
|Trevor Bonhoff||6'7"/215||SO (W/O)||F|
|Colby Wollenman||6'7"/225||SO (RS)||F|
|Keenan Wetzel||6'4"/200||JR (RS;W/O)||G|
Harris, Appling, Dawson, Payne, Costello/Schilling
The Bench Press
Valentine, Ellis, Trice, Gauna, Kaminski, Byrd
Possible Guard Combos
Speed: Trice, Appling
Defense and transition: Appling, Harris
Big: Harris, Dawson; Harris, Valentine; Dawson, Valentine
Need one quick: Harris, Ellis
Super dunks, suffocating defense, rebounds and points from the perimeter?
If all goes as planned, that'll be Dawson this season. Improvement across the board stands to benefit one of the Big Ten's most athletic finishers.
If properly motivated, he's capable of dropping 20 on the best of the best that the conference has to offer. He's streaky, but he can score in flurries. Dawson is the true unknown of the 2013-14 roster; however, the bench could be Izzo's best asset this year.
Trice and Valentine each chipped in about five points per night, but the development of Gauna could lead to more contributions from the reserves. Kaminski could tack on a few baskets to the total too, giving Izzo a shot at a solid 20 points to throw in the bank.
Michigan State has depth and possibilities as two key factors. If the stars play as stars and Izzo gets a surprise or two off the bench, the Spartans shouldn't have much of an issue floating through March.
Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios
It's having the ability to endure injury and the physicality of Big Ten football...rather, basketball. In the B1G, football and basketball are separated by playing surfaces only.
Ohio State hits on the gridiron, and it hits on the floor. Same goes for Michigan and Indiana; it's an aggressive conference.
Getting through it without major bumps and bruises is an accomplishment in itself.
The opposite of the above? Major injury, of course, would be a low for Michigan State, and that's not just for Harris or Payne. That goes for Byrd and Kaminski, too. Their careers have been full of them.
A Final Four is always the goal, but that won't be enough this spring. It's national championship or bust. That's the mindset, and it's not the typical "we want to win" mentality that every team has, regardless of realistic chances, at the start of the season.
No, the Spartans are legitimate.
Ken Thompson: Michigan State loaded for Final Four run http://t.co/FkJUZ3iUqp— Journal & Courier (@jcheadlines) November 4, 2013
It wasn't long ago that Michigan State was considered a favorite to win it all.
That was the story in 2010. It was the same song the year before. Izzo had a great chance in 2005. Pick a year in the late 1990s or early 2000s; he was picked to make it to the Final Four once or twice.
Reaching the semi-finals almost seems like a given, but winning a championship is not. It's a likely possibility. Many around the nation think that Michigan State is set to be a vintage Izzo team. This isn't just a regular year; it's special, and so are the players.
Paynes and Harrises don't come along on annual basis.
Izzo should win the Big Ten. He should enter The Big Dance as a No. 1 seed, regional or overall. He should skate through the Round of 32 on his way to a Sweet 16, at which point, he should proceed onto the next round.
Then the next one.
Then they should head to the Final Four, for the sake of getting Payne and Appling there, keeping in tune with tradition. Check. Please advance.
Finally, they should play in the national championship game. Experience and endurance should prove to be enough to fend off Kansas or Kentucky, both youthful and extremely athletic, during the battle for it all at Jerry's World.
Yeah, I said it. Michigan State's going to win it all.
Tom Izzo's 8th preseason top-5 team will try to become 5th to reach Final Four -- and then some. http://t.co/oFpRCsaKlb— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 23, 2013
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81