Key Losses: G/F Alan Anderson (13.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), G Chris Hill (8.8 ppg, 4.3 apg), G Kelvin Torbert (9.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated Defeated Old Dominion 89–81, defeated Vermont 72–61, defeated Duke 78–68, defeated Kentucky 94–88, lost to North Carolina 87–71 in the Final Four
Flint, MI/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Lagos, Nigeria/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Montreal, PQ/Champlain-St. Lambert
Lansing, MI/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Lima, OH/Lima Senior
Lacking depth in the backcourt, Michigan State will need immediate help from Walton, a point guard, and Joseph, a shooting guard. Walton is physically and mentally ready to play defense at the college level. That's his thing. Shooting won't be an initial strength. He must prove he can run the offense while limiting turnovers. Joseph is similar to Maurice Ager, although smaller and slightly less athletic. He has a smooth stroke and a good feel for finding offense. Tom Izzo needs him to play quality defense and nail the occasional jumper.
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Michigan State does not return all of the components that fueled its run to the 2005 Final Four. But the Spartans have enough that a fifth trip to the Final Four in eight years is a realistic goal.
"We don't have the depth that we had last year, but I think we have everything else that you need to be successful," veteran coach Tom Izzo says.
Gone are '04-05 team MVP Alan Anderson and valuable reserves Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Tim Bograkos. However, Michigan State will showcase more high-end talent this year. Senior center Paul Davis has steadily improved and will be one of the best in the country at his position. The same can be said for wing guards Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown.
Davis was one of the top 10 recruits out of high school, and he has slowly developed into the type of difference-maker that can carry a team. His 20-point, 12-rebound performance in the Sweet 16 victory over Duke has bolstered his confidence.
"Davis took monstrous steps in the last third of the season," Izzo says. "I thought he rebounded and played awfully well in the Tournament."
Davis' low post game now includes the ability to score over either shoulder. He has good touch on the turnaround jumper, and he runs the floor well and can finish on the break.
The Spartans will likely have a more conventional look with two starting big men, as opposed to last year's unit that had Anderson at power forward. Junior Delco Rowley has the body and post package to become a factor, but his lateral movement on defense and rebounding production have not been strengths.
Junior Drew Naymick had good moments as a defender and rebounder late last season, but he battled a shoulder injury during the summer. Heading into the fall, Izzo says there is a chance Naymick could redshirt this season.
Marquise Gray is the most athletic big man Izzo has ever signed. Gray can collect garbage above the rim or on the run. The redshirt freshman, coming off a knee injury, is expected to be an impact rebounder.
Idong Ibok is raw but imposing, with his 7-foot-5 shot-swatting wing span. Classmate Goran Suton has more offensive skill and range than the other young post players, but he must learn to play hard on a consistent basis.
Football wide receiver Matt Trannon, whose defensive versatility is a key factor, plans to return.
Finally healthy as a junior, Ager proved that he was one of the best-kept secrets in the nation. The second-team All-Big Ten selection led the Spartans in scoring and hit 40 percent of his 3s. This offseason, Ager grew an inch (up to 6-5) and is poised to take his game to another level.
Brown has developed the ability to create medium-range shots for himself, with good strength and leaping ability. His long-range shooting is erratic. He nailed five 3-pointers in the Elite Eight against Kentucky but struggled from beyond the arc at USA under-21 team tryouts this summer and failed to make the cut. Brown's defense, however, makes up for his streaky shooting.
Point guard Drew Neitzel finished his freshman season as a starter. He can pilot an offense. Now, look for Neitzel to dial in as a shooter.
One year after wearing down opponents with speed, a full-court press and superior depth, look for the Spartans to regain an air of rebounding brutality -- though Izzo still plans to press and run. Meanwhile, Ager and Brown can finish with the best, and Neitzel knows where they fly. There will be no shortage of highlight-reel dunks in East Lansing this year.
"I think for the first time in a long while there are some guys that want to win more than I want to win, and that's a good sign," Izzo says. "We just have to make sure we don't get anybody injured."
If the Spartans stay healthy, expect this team to be ranked in the top 10 during the season and make another run at the Final Four.