Four Things That Must Happen for MSU Basketball to Make Another Final Four

(Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

(Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Colin Koot

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Last year’s Michigan State basketball team overachieved.  After losing two lottery picks to the NBA and then their second best player to injury, it was a shock to most people that that team advanced all the way to the Final Four.

The expectations are different this year, with MSU being atop many preseason polls.  However, many questions remain to be answered about this team and what they can accomplish.  These are five things that must happen for Michigan State to make their second consecutive Final Four.

  1. Joshua Langford Needs to Be Like His Former Self

The loss of Langford had a great impact on MSU last season.  They need to get him back fully healthy in order to have multiple scoring threats on the wing, as they didn’t have a multi-dimensional player that forced teams to take a ton of attention off of Cassius Winston.

Michigan State does not have anyone like Langford on the wing that can drive the basket effectively while also having a lights out jumper, forcing the defense to pick their poison.  He also is a stellar defender that MSU will depend on to shut down the other team’s best guard while providing great on-court leadership as a senior.

If healthy, Langford could transform this team and make them one of the premier teams in college basketball.

  1.  A Big Man Needs to Step Into a Prominent Role

The starting lineup for next season has one big hole, someone to compliment Xavier Tillman in the post.  Who that player is remains to be seen. Sophomore Marcus Bingham rarely played his freshman year because of his lanky frame, but if he gets bigger he could become a key piece of this Spartan team.

MSU could also turn to incoming freshmen Julius Marble or Malik Hall to contribute as primarily a rebounder and low post defender.  Due to the abundance of Spartan guards, Michigan State could also go small and play Aaron Henry at the four. Tillman will assume the low post scoring duties, they just need someone to get rebounds and play defense in the tough and physical Big Ten conference.

  1.  Winston Needs to Have a Trusted Backup

Last year, everyone saw that when Cassius was given a rare two minute break, the offense stalled.  Foster Loyer just could not effectively control the Spartan offense, and Winston had to go back in.  

Towards the end of the year, fans could see the burnout in Winston as his three point shot percentage just fell and he looked absolutely drained at the end of every game.  That needs to change in order for Cassius to still be the best player he can be in April.

Foster Loyer would be the first option, as he has already undergone a full year in the system and knows the offense fairly well.  However, questions with his size and defensive ability could lead to freshman guard Rocket Watts getting a majority of the playing time.

He is a top 30 recruit that can create his own shot and attack the basket off the dribble.  He’ll play this year, but how much depends on how well he learns the system and his defense.  No matter who it is, Michigan State needs someone to take an extra five minutes per game off of Winston’s load.

  1.  Kyle Ahrens and Gabe Brown Must Be Solid Off the Bench

Every good team has a couple guys that can really make an impact off the bench.  Ahrens and Brown need to be those guys. Questions of course arise about Kyle Ahrens’s health, but if he gives Michigan State 15-20 minutes of defense and three pointers, that’ll be enough.  His leadership is pivotal for MSU and his effort is contagious, forcing everyone to give more.

Gabe Brown needs to take the next step after a mediocre freshman year filled with flashes of the future.  If he is able to hit his three point shot consistently and not be a defensive liability, than his athleticism will greatly help Michigan State.

Bottom Line

The Spartans have the makes to go to another Final Four, they just have to put it all together.  If this team can play like they did last year while adding another All-America player in Langford, success is inevitable.