Michigan State comes into the 2010-11 season with very high expectations. Last year, the Spartans surprised many by making its second consecutive trip to the Final Four.
The Spartans ultimately lost to the national championship runner up Butler Bulldogs.
This year, the Spartans are ranked No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches preseason Top 25 polls. They only lost two of their main contributors from last year's team in Raymar Morgan (graduated) and Chris Allen (transfer).
However, it's what Michigan State will get back that has the biggest impact on this year's season. Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten Player of The Year in 2009, will be back and healthy after tearing his Achilles tendon in the Spartans' second round NCAA Tournament match up against the Maryland Terrapins.
Lucas is not the only stud who is coming back for the Spartans. Senior guard Durrell Summers, who had a phenomenal NCAA Tournament last year (averaging 18.8 PPG and shot 54.5 percent from the field), is poised to have a big year as well.
Lucas and Summers will make up the starting back court for this year's Spartans squad. The front court, on the other hand, isn't as set in stone at the moment.
Delvon Roe and Derrick Nix started at power forward and center last season. Roe is "100 percent" healthy for the first time since arriving in East Lansing, and Nix did well in the spot minutes he played last year.
Draymond Green was a force off the bench for Michigan State, and has shown that he is one of the best forwards the Spartans have. Green is one of the leaders for this year's squad and has a close bond with head coach Tom Izzo.
The question is, will Green be better suited to move into the starting line up or reprise his role as the sixth man who controls the second group?
Izzo and his coaching staff brought in the No. 11 ranked recruiting class in 2010 according to Rivals.com. Highlighted by 6'10 Ohio forward Adreian Payne and 6'2 Michigan Player of the Year guard Keith Appling.
Payne has the chance to crack the starting lineup if he can impress Izzo, and all that takes is some toughness and rebounding. Appling will be a potent scorer off the bench along with Korie Lucious (who filled in well for Lucas during the NCAA Tournament).
My suggestion for the Spartans would be a line up of Lucas, Summers, Green, Roe, and Nix. Green may be a big, but he has the abilities of a guard. Izzo contemplated letting him run the point in Lucas' absence.
This line up would give Michigan State an inside presence as well as two great scorers in Lucas and Summers. Also it leaves Lucious, Appling, Payne, and Izzo favorite Austin Thornton to come off the bench and that's one of the better bench options in the nation.
The Spartans are vying for their third straight trip to the Final Four this year, and with another year of chemistry and with (hopefully) improved health, there isn't much standing in Michigan State's way as they try to get to Houston.
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