With the techie stuff taken care of, let’s move on to some historical analysis of the MSU basketball program. To start, I thought we should refresh our memories regarding all the guys who’ve donned the green and white under Tom Izzo. By my count, there have been at least 40 scholarship players brought into the program by Izzo.
Linked below is a PDF file that shows all of those players (plus the guys on the team when Izzo took over for Heathcote and a handful of walk-ons) on a season-by-season basis. It’s a work of art–if I do say so myself–so have a look see:
- The legend at the bottom tells you how to identify redshirt years, transfers in, and early departures (NBA, transfers out, early career endings due to injury/graduation).
- Four walk-ons made the cut: Tim Bograkos and Matt Trannon because they were both significant contributors at various points in their careers, Austin Thornton because he could be a significant contributor at some point in his career, and Mat Ishibia because he’s the favorite all-time Spartan of The Official Wife of the Spartans Weblog.
- I’m sure there are a few errors somewhere–probably in the earlier years. Feel free to point them out if you find them.
Here are my initial observations:
The Heathcote Guys
Don’t let anyone tell you that Izzo hasn’t raised MSU’s recruiting profile. From what I remember of David Hart, Damon Beathea, Anthony Mull, Steve Nicodemus, and Steve Polonowski, and DuJuan Wiley, they were all nice, hard-working guys–but none of them were conference championship-contending level players, even as role players.
It appears that Ray Weathers–who was the leading scorer for Izzo’s second team–left the team with one year of eligibility remaining. Anyone remember what the deal was there?
Ten Nine players have been redshirted as freshman under Izzo. All ten nine were big men. Thomas Kelley and David Thomas took mid-career redshirt seasons (Kelley due to a foot injury).
It’s been a mixed bad for the ten nine big men. Goran Suton, Drew Naymick, and Adam Ballinger, and Aloysious Anagonye all went on to fairly successful careers. Ken Miller, Jason Andreas, Adam Wolfe, and Delco Rowley never panned out as major contributors (injuries prematurely ended Miller’s and Rowley’s Wolfe’s careers). The book is still out on Marquise Gray and Tom Herzog; Idong Ibok’s probably peaked.
Early Depatures Have Indeed Hurt
It’s not so much the guys who went on to the NBA (Richardson, Randolph, Brown), it’s the guys who left unexpectedly that set the program back a bit after the three final four seasons. Marcus Taylor’s departure after his sophomore season left the team without a true point guard for two years while Chris Hill held down the fort.
(Note: Brandon Cotton’s departure for the University of Detroit after playing just three games in the 2003-04 season didn’t help. On the other hand, Cotton ended up averaging 17.5 points/game and . . . a whopping 2.1 assists/game for his career, so maybe we didn’t miss out on that much.)
And Erazem Lorbek’s departure after just one season left Paul Davis to more or less man the low post by himself for two full seasons. (Note: It appears Larry Bird is still allowing Lorbek to age like a fine wine in Slovenia.)
Izzo Depth, Baby
Depth has been a trademark of successful Izzo teams, to the point that TAFKATBTW named one of his metrics “Izzo Depth.” The early final four teams all had Izzo Depth. which allowed those teams to defend, rebound, and push the ball on offense the way Izzo wants his teams to.
The aforementioned early departures led to short benches in multiple seasons. The one subsequent team that really had depth among all three groups of players (points, wings, bigs) was the 2004-05 final four team. You can make an argument for the 2003-04 elite eight team, except that community college transfer Rashi Johnson was the back-up point guard. Next up would be last year’s team. (I’m basing these judgments on eye-balling the players available and their stage of development in a given season. Perhaps I’ll take a more quantitative approach at some point in the future.)
In short, MSU has been most successful under Izzo when the bench has been fairly long. The good news is that the roster for the upcoming season has all the markings of a classic Izzo team, with depth across the board. (Note that the upcoming season is the last shot to maintain the “every Izzo scholarship player who’s stayed four years has gone to a final four” thing.) And the 2009-10 roster looks just as deep, assuming Lucas, Morgan, and Roe don’t have NBA-worthy campaigns this year. The one question mark will be whether the big men in the 2008 and 2009 classes can quickly become starter-quality players as Suton, Gray, and Ibok depart at the end of next season.
A few elite programs (Duke/UNC) can win consistently by recruiting elite players who only play one or two seasons before leaving for the NBA. That’s never been Izzo’s model. His goal has always been to build a deep roster of players who can develop over their careers, excel at their individual roles, and form a solid, all-around team with no major weaknesses. Hopefully, these past few seasons show Izzo has found that sweet spot of guys with the talent to compete at a college championship level, without the supreme talent and/or ego to leave for the pros early.
There you have it. This review should give us some context from which to look at statistical trends over the last 13 seasons of MSU basketball. For now, I’m interested to hear others’ thoughts on how the roster has evolved during the Izzo era.