FORWARDS TO MARCH
TOM IZZO is usually optimistic about his team, but this year is different. His Spartans have everything they need for him to win his second national championship. That starts inside, a welcome change. Izzo started four guards against Kansas in the second round of last year's NCAA tournament, which the Spartans lost by 20. And his one starting forward, gifted scorer NICK WARD, politely declined requests to play defense. "Ward is a good player and had a great year offensively," the ever-candid Izzo says. "I'm not winning big with him unless he changes some."
Ward will have to change if he wants to keep his minutes. Now Izzo can turn to freshman JAREN JACKSON JR., who looks like he walked right off of an NBA general manager's holiday wish list: He is 6'11" with a 7'4" wingspan and a shot that allows him to stretch defenses. His presence is one of the many reasons for the confidence inside MSU's basketball offices.
Another big one is national player of the year favorite MILES BRIDGES, who led the team in scoring last year (16.9 ppg) and will move to small forward. If you add 6'9" GAVIN SCHILLING, who missed last season with a right-knee injury, and 6'8", 260-pound freshman XAVIER TILLMAN, who might have started lifting weights at birth, it's clear that this team brings back the Michigan State hallmarks of size, D and toughness—and with the most talent Izzo has ever had.
PROJECTED TEAM STATS
BIG TEN RECORD
With 2017--18 projections for the top six scorers
COACH TOM IZZO (23RD SEASON)
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Miles Bridges [Starter] 6'7" Soph.
Nick Ward 6'8" Soph.
Jaren Jackson Jr. [Starter] 6'11" Fr.
Josh Langford [Starter] 6'5" Soph.
Cassius Winston [Starter] 6'0" Soph.
Matt McQuaid 6'4" Jr.
A career 37.1% three-point shooter, MATT MCQUAID has the range to do damage from behind the arc. But will MSU's loaded roster free him for momentum-building daggers, or will he have trouble finding his rhythm as the Spartans' stars try to share the ball?