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November 3, 2009

Top 347 countdown
No. 3 Michigan State
Coach: Tom Izzo (15th season).
Last season's record: 31-7 overall, 15-3 in Big Ten (first in league).
Postseason: Lost in national championship game to North Carolina.
Final regular-season RPI: 6th.
Last time didn't make NCAA field: 1997.
Returning starters: 4.

OVERVIEW

The state of Michigan has received its share of bad news in the past year - but none of it came from Michigan State. The Spartans gave fans a feel-good story by reaching their sixth Final Four under coach Tom Izzo before losing in the national championship game to North Carolina. With limited accolades and hype, Michigan State marched to the Final Four on guile and hard work. Michigan State can't play the underdog card this season. Michigan State returns Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas to a team that won the conference by a commanding four games. But the Spartans do have some holes to fill. While every other Big Ten team that went to the NCAAs returns nearly intact, Izzo must replace two key players. Center Goran Suton was one of the most valuable players in the NCAA tournament, and guard Travis Walton was the league's defensive player of the year. If Michigan State can find capable replacements, the Spartans could write another inspirational story for their fans.

Michigan State could benefit from more consistency from Raymar Morgan.

PROJECTED STARTERS
F Raymar Morgan, 6-8/230, Sr.
F Delvon Roe, 6-8/230, Soph.
G Chris Allen, 6-3/205, Jr.
G Kalin Lucas, 6-0/190, Jr.
G Durrell Summers, 6-4/205, Jr.
KEY RESERVES
C Tom Herzog, 7-0/250, Jr.
C/F Derrick Nix, 6-8/280, Fr.
C Garrick Sherman, 6-10/235, Fr.
F Draymond Green, 6-6/235, Soph.
G Korie Lucious, 5-11/170, Soph.

FRONTCOURT

Suton will be missed; he averaged a double-double during the run to the national title game. The leading candidates to replace him are seldom-used junior Tom Herzog and two freshmen. Some of Suton's production must be replaced by junior Raymar Morgan. Morgan has all sorts of talent, but he is wildly inconsistent. When he's at his best, he's one of the best frontcourt players in the nation. Delvon Roe was a key contributor as a freshman and should contribute more as a sophomore. Draymond Green received more playing time as last season progressed, and he showed enough late in the season to think he can be a solid complementary player, at the least. He's physical and can score.

BACKCOURT

Lucas built on a successful freshman season to become one of the best point guards in the country as a sophomore. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year, then further proved himself in the NCAA tournament. He had 18 points and seven assists against Kansas and 21 points against Connecticut, but his best performance might have been against Louisville's press. Junior Durrell Summers could be headed for a breakout season after averaging 8.6 points last season as a part-time starter. Chris Allen will continue to be Michigan State's best outside threat. The Spartans will need better defensive contributions from their backcourt after losing Walton. He essentially was a defensive specialist last season and was good in that role. Korie Lucious is another jet-quick player who should provide a spark off the bench.

OUTLOOK

Michigan State will start the season as a top-five team and the favorite in the Big Ten, but the Spartans have some issues. Still, they also have some talent and one of the best coaches in the nation. A long NCAA run in March can be expected. Again.

More Rivals.com 2009-10 Preseason 347 Countdown

Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.



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