Eric Fish breaks down MSU basketball without Shannon next season.

By Eric Fish

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           With the early departure of Shannon Brown, and no proven scoring threats on the MSU basketball team for next season, I suppose the Spartan Nation will see just how good of a coach Tom Izzo is.

           Izzo has already promised fans that he’s doing away with the nice-guy persona and getting back down to playing basketball his way – with strong defense and tumultuous work ethic. Strong defense is exactly what this team needs next year, because without Shannon and graduating seniors Paul Davis and Maurice Ager, the only real scoring threat they have is Drew Neitzel and even he was streaky last season.

           Next season will be a time for some of the team’s unsung players to step up to the plate. Expect bigger roles from big men Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok, Drew Naymick, and Goran Suton. Naymick has been bothered by injuries his entire MSU career, but should be effective defensively if he can stay healthy, whereas Gray, Suton, and Ibok have much bigger shoes to fill for next season seeing as how Matt Trannon likely won’t return to the squad.

But what do these four returning big men have in common? If you said lackluster scoring presence, you hit the nail on the head. That was one area that Paul Davis excelled in when he was on his game. It also wouldn’t hurt them all to get tougher.

Travis Walton and Maurice Joseph are going to have to fill more of a role next season if this team is going to do anything. Walton was sound defensively last year, but passed up lots of good looks because of inconsistent shooting, and Joseph seemed just totally lost in the type of game Izzo wants. But saying that, Joseph should be more comfortable with the system this season and Walton will likely be asked to take the shots if he has a good look at them having had a year of solid playing time to build his confidence.

But lets look at the incoming class. Spartan fans are really going to love forward Raymar Morgan. Morgan will likely start immediately due to the lack of depth this team will have, which will only make him better down the road. Seven-footer Tom Herzog will likely be redshirted and asked to hit the weights to add more muscle onto his 20-pound body. Finally, Isiah Dahlman is described by Izzo as a Morris Peterson type player with tremendous athletic ability. At six-foot-six, he could definitely come in handy.

Next season will obviously be a rebuilding year for Tom Izzo and the Spartan hoopers, but expect this team to pick right back up and contend for the Big Ten Title following next season. Izzo is too good of a teacher not to develop players and too good of a coach not to get everything he can out of every one of his athletes.

Expect the Spartans to be around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten next season and be fighting for a berth in the NCAA Tournament come March. But after the 2006-07 year, don’t be surprised if the Spartans are back in the mix and contending for another Final Four appearance.

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