- Dick Vitale, College Basketball analyst
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One program that I will keep an eye on with keen interest during the 2014-15 season is Michigan State.
When you think about the players the Spartans lost from last season, it is incredible. Start with Adreian Payne up front, a true workhorse during his career in East Lansing. The backcourt lost Gary Harris, an NBA first-round pick, and the experienced leadership of Keith Appling.
Losing three players of that talent level will be difficult to overcome. They have moved on, and some fans may wonder how far down Michigan State will fall in the Big Ten.
But there is an incredible force still around the Breslin Center. He is the leader, coach Tom Izzo, and he will have a hungry team taking the court. There is also a lot of returning talent, waiting for the opportunity to excel.
When I think of Izzo, three things come to mind. First, he can motivate and inspire to get the maximum out of people. Second, his team will defend as a unit. They will play together, communicate, block out on the boards and perform the way a good defensive team should. Lastly, they will be efficient on the offensive end. They have a great comprehension and understanding of good shot selection. When you take good shots, you have a chance to win.
Don't ever count Michigan State out, not with Izzo leading the way. He will pour his heart into this, building another winner. He has talent, led by Branden Dawson. Add in guard Travis Trice handling the ball, the versatile Denzel Valentine, tough forward Matt Costello and a handful of newcomers, and the Spartans will battle to be ranked.
Izzo also has several transfers sitting out who will be ready for next season, like Eron Harris from West Virginia and Bryn Forbes from Cleveland State. My friends, the future is bright in East Lansing.
The common denominator is Izzo. He is a future Hall of Famer who gets his people prepared. It is always impressive when you can get your players to perform at their highest level.
Michigan State fans, don't be nervous. There won't be a Magic Johnson out there, no Greg Kelser, Steve Smith or even Gary Harris. But the Spartans will have a bunch of kids playing with pride, heart and passion. They will reflect the image of their great coach and leader, Mr. Izzo.
As long as Michigan State has Tom Izzo, the Spartans can't be counted out in the Big Ten.