On Thursday evening, the 2015-16 edition of the Michigan State Spartans took a hit when it was announced that ESPN 100 recruit Caleb Swanigan de-committed from Michigan State.
Swanigan gave the Spartans one of the best recruiting classes in the country, and made them legitimate title contenders in the Big Ten in 2015-16.
While the loss of the big man will definitely hurt their overall depth next season, all things aren’t bad in East Lansing, MI. Tom Izzo still has a talented recruiting class coming in that should complement the returning stars quite nicely. Factor in the development of Lourawls Nairn last season, and the Spartans should once again be a force in the conference.
With Izzo running things, you can never truly count out the green and white.
Now that Swanigan is no longer in the mix, we decided to take a look at what the starting five for the Michigan State Spartans would look like for the 2015-16 season, and their overall depth chart. Guard: Lourawls Nairn (Sophomore)
As the 2014-15 season wore on, Nairn became a mainstay in the starting lineup for the Spartans. As the coaching staff trusted him with the ball more, he saw an increase in playing time as the season progressed. On several occasions, he started in place of senior guard Travis Trice, which has to say something about the young man’s talents. In 2015-16, Nairn will continue to develop into a reliable point guard who is a pass-first type of player. Look for him to excel in his second season in the NCAA.
Guard: Bryn Forbes (Senior)
The sharp-shooter who transferred to Michigan State from Cleveland State is widely known as one of the best long ball shooters in the country. In his first season with the Spartans in 2014-15, Forbes shot 42.7% from three point range on the year. With Trice and Dawson both gone, look for Forbes’ production to increase considerably in his senior season in the NCAA.
Guard: Denzel Valentine (Senior)
With both Trice and Dawson gone, as mentioned above, Denzel Valentine becomes the new big man on campus. The senior will be looked upon to lead the Spartans in 2015-16, and he’s the perfect player to do that. Last season, he was arguably their most consistent performer across the board, averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Valentine enjoyed a breakout season in 2014-15, and flirted with a triple-double on several occasions down the stretch. As the team’s top offensive threat, look for him to put up big numbers once again.
Forward: Deyonta Davis (Freshman)
With Swanigan now out of the mix, for the time being at least (he’s still considering MSU), Davis is now the top incoming recruit for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Standing at 6’9”, I feel that Davis has a realistic shot to start at the 4-spot for the Spartans. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them roll with Marvin Clark, Jr in this spot. Clark has the better shooting range of the two, but either one could be a suitable fit to fill out the 4 for the green and white.
Forward: Gavin Schilling (Junior)
At the 5-spot, the Spartans find themselves in the same position as they do at the 4, in the fact that they can rotate two guys into this position and not miss a beat. However, I feel that Gavin Schilling is the better all-round big man, in comparison to Matt Costello. I like Schilling on the offensive end better than Costello, as I feel he has slightly better touch around the rim and a better post game. On the defensive end, I like Costello slightly better, which made this selection much tougher than I expected. Schilling has room to improve on the defensive end, which I think will come this year if he’s given the opportunity to showcase his talents on am ore consistent basis. I expect Schilling, if given the majority share of the minutes, to flirt with double-double production on almost every game night.
Incoming transfer Eron Harris, out of West Virginia, looks to be the 6th man for the Spartans, and he can rotate in at any of the three guard spots this season. Last year, he practiced with the team all season long, so he’s very familiar with the offensive schemes that they run and should be able to come in without any hesitation and contribute right away.
Add in incoming guards like Kyle Ahrens and shooting guard Matt McQuaid, and the Spartans have a talented, yet underrated group of guards who will be key to their successes in 2015-16.
Their forwards are the big question mark for the season. With Swanigan in the mix, they had some extra size and talent that provided Izzo and staff with some much-needed depth in the paint. Now, they’ll have to rely on the likes of Schilling, Costello, Clark, Davis, and Alvin Ellis to get the job done.
In comparison to the rest of the Big Ten, their forwards aren’t the most talented bunch. With that said, that didn’t seem to slow them down last year on their way to the Final Four. Izzo knows how to get the best out of his players, and I’d expect nothing less of that again this season as they look to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.