Time to put a bow on MSU's season and take a quick look ahead to next year before I refocus my attention on the Lions and the upcoming NFL draft.
All things considered the talent on MSU's roster, the preseason expectations and end results, the performances of Drew Neitzel, Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas, etc. it's fair to say the Spartans underachieved this year. They don't belong in the Final Four. They're not as good a team as North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA or a couple other teams, but to not contend for a Big Ten title and to lose in such inglorious fashion in the Sweet 16 cannot be ignored.
In the coming weeks we'll find out who's turning pro early and how those decisions will shape the future of college basketball. My guess is enough big names from big teams will go that MSU will be a favorite to win the Big Ten (ahead of Purdue) and reach the Final Four. You'll see a different look Spartan team out there, one that won't be so perimeter-oriented without Neitzel but will rely on Lucas' creativity in the open court and the inside presence of Goran Suton, Delvon Roe and even Morgan.
At his season wrap-up press conference this week, MSU coach Tom Izzo said next year's team will have "a lot more length, a lot more athleticism. I mean a lot, lot more."
"And I think more depth," Izzo said. "More depth, more quality depth and more experienced depth and then a potential star coming in and the other two guys really can play, too."
It's far too early to pick a starting five, but I would expect Lucas, Chris Allen, Morgan, Suton and the freshman Roe, assuming he's recovered from microfracture knee surgery, to start by the end of the year. All five are capable of averaging double figures in scoring. Off the bench, Durrell Summers, freshmen Korie Lucious and Draymond Green, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok and Travis Walton all could contribute.
Considering the fan-friendly tournament road they could travel Dayton, Ohio, or Minneapolis in the first round; Indianapolis for the second weekend and Ford Field for the finals there's reason to believe MSU could win it all in 2009.