Spartan fans know that reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas is the spark to the Michigan State offense. He has been for two years, and will continue his role as leader and playmaker for the duration of his career in East Lansing.
One of the keys to the 11th-ranked Spartans' (10-3, 20-6) success in last year's tournament was their depth. At any given moment, someone could step up if Lucas was having an off night. "Too Easy" was vital, but not solely relied upon.
Goran Suton, Travis Walton, and Durrell Summers all came up big when Tom Izzo called on them last March—what about this year?
Suton and Walton are gone, but Summers is still a part of the Izzo clan (right?).
Widely considered one of the conference's premier athletes, Summers has done a dead-on Houdini impression and disappeared into thin air.
It was hardly "Summer Time" last Tuesday against Purdue, Summers scored only two points and didn't start the second half.
It has been reported that there's tension between Izzo and Summers, fueling the fire of rumors that he may forgo his senior year at State and jump into the 2010 NBA Draft. He's a great athlete, and a future NBA'er, but now is not the time. The 6'4" Summers still has something to prove to his fans and his coach—he owes them that.
If Michigan State wants to return to the Final Four, Summers must come to play every night. In Lucas' absence, he didn't score more than 11 points in any of Sparty's three consecutive losses—hardly the contribution Izzo was counting on from one of his elite players.
Draymond Green looked to be well on his way to becoming another cornerstone of Izzo's offense just two months ago. He had an exceptional tournament showing last year, and started the 2009-10 season off with a bang.
Lately, the 6'6" Green has faded into mediocrity, but still manages to stay afloat with his playmaking abilities. He's a dominant force in the paint and he'll need to throw his weight around come March if the green and white want to make it to Indianapolis.
Where has the "Captain" been in the last, let's say, two years?
Raymar Morgan had a stellar sophomore season, no slump there. He averaged 14 points per game in 2007-08 and was en route to becoming a superstar at Michigan State.
Fast forward to 2010, the 6'8" senior is putting up just 10 points a contest and looks to be a shell of his former self. The "Captain" is necessary if Sparty wants to "make it happen" in the big dance.
Delvon Roe's go-get-it premise from a season ago was enough reason to think that there were bigger and better things to come from the then-freshman in the near future.
Now a sophomore, the 6'8" Roe's numbers are nearly identical, but his hustle is not. There's two Roes, one that will toss his body around and make his presence felt, and the Roe that seems to just take up space. Izzo needs last season's Roe in the coming weeks, he knows his sophomore is capable of so much more and so do Spartan fans.
The list of no-showers seems like a bleak forecast for times to come for the Spartan hoopers, doesn't it?
Don't worry, because there is one guy that can come to Lucas' aid and help State slice through the 64-team field.
Who is it?
It's Chris Allen, of course.
Allen has had a year-long struggle putting the round-ball into the basket, but he's been on a roll recently. One of the Big-Ten's sharp-shooters, Allen can do some serious damage if provoked.
The 6'3" junior from Georgia has never been a big time scorer, but he can fill it up on a moment's notice. Allen ripped Purdue for a season-high 21 points last week in a 76-64 loss at the Breslin Center.
With his laser-like 3-point arsenal, Izzo's No. 2 guard can give defenses fits. With simple dribble-penetration and drawing double-teams, Lucas can create opportunities for Allen to make teams pay in March with the deep ball.
It's obvious that Lucas can do it all, but he shouldn't have to. There's plenty of talent surrounding him, and a hearty-run in March for Sparty is contingent on the other 15 guys on Izzo's roster giving him some help.