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NCAA Tournament 2012: 10 Reasons Sparty Will Be in the Final Four Again Soon.

Bryan DiemerContributor IIAugust 24, 2016

NCAA Tournament 2012: 10 Reasons Sparty Will Be in the Final Four Again Soon.

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    Tom Izzo and the Spartans were ousted in the first round of this year's tournament, but they will be back in the National Spotlight soon.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Michigan State Spartans recently had their disappointing season come to an end after a two-point loss to UCLA in the second round of the newly-formatted NCAA tournament.

    Tom Izzo has led his Spartans to 14-straight tournament appearances, which ranks third among active streaks. While six of those appearances have led to Final Four runs, there have been plenty of tournaments where the Spartans have lost in the early going.

    This may have been one of those years, but don't expect the Spartans to be out of the Final Four spotlight for very long. Here is a look at what the Spartans have returning and the top 10 reasons why they will be playing on the final weekend of the tourney again soon.

Draymond Green, PF

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The Spartans vocal leader also has the ability to lead his team in just about every stat category possible. He recorded two triple-doubles, (the last of which came in their loss to UCLA) and has developed into a good inside-out threat.

    If he looks to score primarily in the post, he should produce the consistency that he lacked for much of the season. When he gets going on the inside, Green and the Spartans become much more consistent. His inside game opens up his outside game, so look for that in the upcoming season.

    Green is a winner who knows what it takes to get to the Final Four—he has been to the Final Four in two of his three collegiate seasons. Now that he is the undeniable leader of the team, expect him to push his teammates even harder, especially in light of their recent disappointing season. 

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

    12.6 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game and 4.1 assists per game. Expect those numbers to increase in his senior season. 

Delvon Roe, PF

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Roe has been hampered by knee injuries throughout his career but for the first time, he appears healthy heading into the offseason. That means that he will finally be able to work on his game during the time off as opposed to working on his health like in the last few years.

    He has slowly become one of the best defenders in the Big Ten and he can be expected to continue holding that title heading into his senior season. Not having to worry about his bad wheels will also allow him to improve his offense, which will be needed as a result of Michigan State losing two of their top three scorers from this past season. If Roe can stay healthy for the entire year, he is capable of putting up 10+ points and 7+ boards per game.

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

    6.1 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game. A healthy offseason should improve those stats by a few points each.

Austin Thornton, SG

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    While he did not score much this season, he might be called upon to do so in 2011-2012.

    Formerly a walk-on, Thornton sees minutes because he is a hustler. With Kalin Lucas, Mike Kebler and Durrell Summers graduating (all guards), Thornton could see an increase in minutes and could provide some senior leadership in a backcourt that is lacking in upperclassmen.

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

    11.1 minutes per game, 2.1 rebounds per game and 2.0 points per game. These could all increase due to the lack of experience in the Spartans backcourt next year.

Garrick Sherman, C

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    While he is obviously a role player, Sherman has displayed moments of brilliance throughout his time at MSU.

    He is a solid, but not great, defender and rebounder who can provide some much needed control on the glass provided he is able to add some bulk this offseason. An injury last summer hampered him in that category, but a healthy summer should be good for Sheman.

    If he is able to add some size to his 6'10" frame, he will be able to help the Spartans return to dominance on the boards, which was something that this year's team struggled with. Fewer second-chance opportunities for opponents will trim their opponent PPG to a more manageable number than what it was this year (66.6).

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

    12.1 minutes per game, 3.1 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game. Sherman's ability to add bulk this offseason could directly influence these numbers.

Derrick Nix, C

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    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    His personal ups and downs during the season led to a limited role for the Spartans.

    He appeared committed to basketball during the offseason as he dropped a bunch of weight to get down to 267. He then gained and lost weight throughout the season, keeping his minutes at a minimum. His ability to control his weight will be the biggest factor in his numbers increasing or staying where they are.

    Nix has shown what he can do with his soft hands and low-post ability, but his conditioning will play a factor in seeing an increased role on the team. When he plays more, there is little doubt that he can rebound and score—but can he defend? A more agile Nix will be a better defender and will lead to a better frontcourt for the Spartans.

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

    8.2 minutes per game, 2.0 rebounds per game and 2.7 points per game. Nix has this offseason to turn into the player that Michigan State hoped he could be.

Keith Appling, SG

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Appling has a chance to be one of the greats at MSU.

    He does a little of everything and reminds me a lot of a young Charlie Bell—his shot even looks a lot like Bell's. He rebounds well for a guard and shoots a high percentage from the outside (41.1 percent from three-point land). Like Bell, he will be asked to handle a lot of the point guard duties due to a graduating point guard.

    Appling has a knack for scoring, as evidenced by his 49 points in the state championship during his senior year of high school. He has also proved that he is able score at the college level and can hit the big shots, as he did against UCLA when the Spartans came charging back from a huge deficit.

    If he can take what he did as a true freshman and improve on it, he could be a 12-plus-points kind of guy for the Spartans next season. Don't be surprised if he ends up with a triple-double before the end of his career.

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

    6.4 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 41.1-percent three-point shooting. Another year in Izzo's system and an increase in minutes will boost all of those numbers for next year.

Adreian Payne, C

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Although he is without a doubt the most athletic player on the roster, Payne played in slow motion for the first half of the season. He then settled into his own and was starting by the end of the season.

    An injury slowed his skill development for this past offseason, so I expect him to make some significant strides heading into next year.

    Having to learn all of Tom Izzo's plays and expectations can be difficult for any freshman. Now that he has gone through a season with the Spartans, he knows what to expect. His athleticism and ability could allow him to eventually become an All-American, so he will likely have to decide whether to jump to the NBA early or not.

    Spartan fans everywhere hope he continues to make progress (like he did throughout this season) but that he also sticks around for four years at MSU. If he does, he could develop into one of the best frontcourt players in Spartan history.

     

    2010-2011 Stat Line

     2.5 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, and .8 blocks per game. An offseason of skill work will likely result in a big jump in all of those numbers.

SG Russell Byrd and PF Alex Gauna

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    Both players are coming off a redshirt season but for different reasons. Byrd redshirted because of an injury, while Gauna sat out so that he could develop and help more down the road.

    Byrd is a 6'7" shooting guard with rare height for his position. His shooting ability will be much needed next year as the Spartans shot 35.5 percent from downtown. Look for Byrd to step in immediately and provide another deep threat for the Spartans.

    Gauna, a 6'9" power forward, will provide depth for a young but talented frontcourt for the Spartans. He has the frame to develop into a good big man in the future for the Spartans.

    Don't be discouraged that he redshirted this year; former Spartan big men such as Goran Suton and Drew Naymick also sat out their first year and both developed into very solid players for the Spartans throughout their careers.

Incoming Freshmen

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    Travis Trice, PG

    Trice is a guy who could develop into a good point guard at MSU. His toughness is what sold the Spartans on Trice so I expect him to be a guy that fits Izzo's hard-nosed style of play.

     

    Brandan Kearney, SG

    Another shooting guard with size; similar to Durrell Summers. Could develop into the type of player Summers was but hopefully with more consistency.

     

    Dwaun Anderson, SG

    Same size and skill set as Chris Allen had but hopefully without the off-court issues. Has the skill set to contribute right away for the Spartans, who have a lot of backcourt needs with the graduation of the three guards.

     

    Branden Dawson, SF

    Rated as a 5-star recruit, he has a similar frame as Raymar Morgan. If he can play at a consistent level right away, he could be a big contributor for MSU next year and for at least a few years down the road.

    This class reminds me of a few years ago when Izzo brought in Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen. They also have a player that is similar to Raymar Morgan. If they can stay healthy and avoid the off-court issues and inconsistencies that plagued this year's senior class, they could find themselves bringing the Spartans back to the Final Four sooner rather than later.

Tom Izzo, Coach

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Now that the distraction of the NBA is past, he can once again focus on the team that his heart belongs to. He had an uncharacteristic one-game suspension during the season (I know it was a minor infraction) and kicked off one of the most popular players on the team.

    Now that this season is behind him and he does not have to worry about the ups and downs of players such as Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious, he can focus on getting back to the Final Four, where he got his name as a coach.

    Losing Kalin Lucas will be tough but the classes that he has coming in could collectively do the job. He has an immense amount of player potential wrapped up into next year's team. Youth will be their biggest downfall—but within the next few years, expect Izzo and the Spartans to be back in the limelight, surprising people on their way to the Final Four.

Conclusion

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    Don't worry Izzo, the head ache of this year is over. Time to look forward to the future of Spartan basketball.J. Meric/Getty Images

    Spartan fans everywhere know that we are a spoiled bunch. Coming to expect our team in the Final Four is an unfair assumption to any coach or team. Most fans can't even expect their team to be in the tournament every year, and this year gave us Spartan fans a good dose of reality. We must remember that the team we cheer for is made up of a bunch of humans and Tom Izzo (or as I call him Tom Wizzardo) does not have any special powers.

    That being said, Tom Izzo is one of the best at his craft and I expect the off-season (with no distractions) will be great for this team. The streak of 14 straight tournament appearances is still alive so we can expect that Izzo will have his players ready to go come next season.

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