Michigan State will be good again next season. How do I know? It's not exactly a bold prediction; Michigan State is good pretty much every year. But I also know for more concrete reasons, specifically Thursday's announcement from East Lansing that shooting guard Gary Harris will return for his sophomore season:
"I'm looking forward to my sophomore season with my Spartan brothers. When the season was done, Coach Izzo gathered a lot of great information and shared it with me and my family. After talking things over with my parents, it is my decision to remain at Michigan State."
Harris also said he was in "no hurry" to move on from college, and Izzo confirmed that Harris wouldn't need surgery to fix a nagging shoulder injury that clearly affected him as recently as the Big Ten tournament. So not only do the Spartans get the first player in school history to win Big 10 freshman of the year (and the first to be voted MVP by his team) -- who shot nearly 50 percent from two and 41 percent from 3, and was the Spartans' all-around most efficient offensive player -- it also gets him for something close to a full offseason in advance of what could be a massive sophomore campaign.
How will Michigan State look by then? The biggest remaining question surrounds forward Adreian Payne, who flashed a sudden perimeter game in addition to his lanky athleticism in 2012-13. That combination usually means the NBA draft is just around the corner, but Payne isn't exactly lighting up draft boards, at least not yet. Payne could go and maybe get into the first round, but he could also return and show even more skill in 2013-14, too. If he does, with Harris in the fold, Keith Appling back for a senior season and Branden Dawson and hugely intriguing sophomore Denzel Valentine taking on a larger role, Michigan State won't be merely be good. They'll be the obvious Big Ten title favorite. And then some.