Sorry, everyone. Haven't blogged in a while. Been both busy and sick, but I'm back with a few random Michigan State thoughts as the Spartans are about to close spring practice a few days after they got a huge basketball commitment.
First on the recruiting front, Ohio forward Delvon Roe is a big get for Tom Izzo, who's put together a roster that will be in the mix for at least the next three Final Fours. I missed Roe when he was in town last week with his AAU team, but people who have seen him play multiple times say he is a legit lefty combo forward who's skill set is pretty unique to the Spartans. As much of a force as he is inside, he's not your Zach Randolph-type post player. He's also got a solid face-up game with mid-range jumper and can get to the basket off the dribble. He's a consensus top-10 player nationally, one who most expect will start as a freshman even though Marquise Gray and Goran Suton will still be in East Lansing.
When you look at the talent MSU has back next year everyone but Maurice Joseph, who continues to work out with the team until his transfer becomes official, plus three blue-chip recruits you have to believe the Spartans are a favorite to win the Big Ten title. Ohio State will be good even if all three of its freshmen go pro as expected, and Indiana with D.J. White back and Eric Gordon incoming also is a contender. I know it's projecting ahead, but with three preseason top-15 teams plus an above-average Illinois squad, whoever wins the Big Ten should get the Midwest's No. 1 seed. If you're MSU, that would come with a home crowd at Ford Field.
I can't offer projections too far ahead without a crystal ball, but I've already heard from Spartan fans who have every right to believe they'll reach the Ford Field Final Four in 2009 (when Roe's a freshman and only the Drews, Neitzel and Naymick, have left the roster). Throw in some great '09 preps the staff is already in on and it's not out of the realm of possibility to think a turn-of-this-century-like run when MSU made three consecutive Final Fours could be in store again.
As for spring football, which wraps up with the return of the Green and White game Saturday, I must say there is a totally different feel around the Duffy Daugherty Football Building this year. High school coaches, recruits and former players are bouncing around daily, banners commemorating Spartan successes of the past are hanging from the practice facility's rafters, and players seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves.
I stopped in for the team's Spring Football Draft yesterday, where players chose up sides by drafting their teammates. It's a genuinely unique idea first-year Spartan coach Mark Dantonio has been doing since his days at Youngstown State, and I've never seen a group of players more excited for an exhibition game. Next year, when there's more depth across the board, I imagine the game itself will be better, but this way sure beats the tired, bland scrimmages every other college in America plays.
I've said this on various radio shows I've done and in private conversations with colleagues. I don't believe MSU is headed for a knock-out, 10-win, BCS 2007, but I do believe the foundation for a consistent, winning program is being put in place. Injuries to either line could derail this final thought, but if I were a betting man I'd take the Spartans to win six games and make the postseason this fall.