The bittersweet day had finally arrived for Spartan fans.
Draymond Green, the big kid from just up I-69 in Saginaw, was going to the NBA. And just like that, 22.6 percent of Michigan State’s scoring and 16.5 percent of the Spartans’ minutes from last season were gone to California.
I could sit here and lecture you about how efficient and impactful Green was, but that’s not going to bring No. 23 back for a fifth year. But all is not lost in East Lansing, where Tom Izzo has sent last year’s Big Ten Tournament Champions and conference regular season co-champions to 15-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Guard Keith Appling returns for his junior year. The sporadic Appling trailed only Green in assist percentage and scoring possessions, but had the third-lowest effective field goal percentage of any Spartan at 46.5. Case in point, Appling shot a dismal 1-of-11 from the field in Champaign, a 42-41 loss against the Illini.
In addition to Appling, fans hope that forward Branden Dawson, who was a highly touted five-star recruit from Gary, Ind., will continue to improve. Center Derrick Nix will be looked to as the senior leader (as the only senior) barring any more run-ins with the law. He was arrested in April for impaired driving and a marijuana possession charge, which was dismissed.
Much like Dawson in 2011, Gary Harris is another five-star recruit Izzo was able to lure away from the Hoosier State. The versatile 6-4 shooting guard headlines a four-man freshman class. Although Harris is a tremendous talent, nobody on this team will be able to replace Green’s inside-out game, which helped the All-American lead his team in made three-pointers, steals and rebounds (Green had 393, while the next-highest rebound total for a Spartan was 157). Did I mention Mr. Everything is going to be missed?
After beginning Michigan State’s season on an aircraft carrier last year, Izzo will continue his team’s military tour this season with an opener against UConn Nov. 9 on Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It doesn’t get any easier after the Spartans return to the United States, as they will take on Kansas Nov. 13 in the Champions Classic in Atlanta. Within conference play, Michigan State will encounter a Big Ten likely headed by Indiana and Michigan. With three of their top five scorers returning and the addition of Harris, another NCAA Tournament and middle-of-the-pack conference finish is certainly not out of the question for Izzo and the Spartans.
F Draymond Green 16.5% of team’s minutes, 22.6% of team’s scoring
G Brandon Wood 13.3, 12.2
G Austin Thornton 10.8, 7.2
C Ianni Anthony N/A
G Joe Sweeny N/A
This totals 41.4 of Michigan State's minutes and 42.3 of its scoring
SG Gary Harris 6-4, 208lbs.
PF Matt Costello 6-9, 225
SG Denzel Valentine 6-5, 205
PF Kenny Kaminski 6-7, 230
Last year’s finish: Loss to Louisville in Sweet 16
What went well: Defense. Izzo's squad had the third best adjusted defensive efficiency in the nation last year (85.5). From beyond the perimeter, their opponenets shot less than 30%, while the Spartans controlled the boards.
What didn't go so well: Foul trouble. The Spartans committed 17.6 fouls per game, ranking 205th in the country.