By Kenneth Cross
Spartans coach Tom Izzo loses point guard Cassius Winston and an athletic behemoth in Xavier Tillman, but he accrued the depth last season to be able to put Michigan State in position to win another Big Ten title and make a deep run in March.
The return of Josh Langford is a wonderful thing after he has been sidelined for two years with a foot injury that plagued him and with rehab, all systems seem to be go for the graduate student to start in the back court with explosive Rocket Watts.
Michigan State will once again play the hard-nosed defense that is a signature of Izzo’s program as the Spartans will look to force more turnovers to get out and convert more layups.
Aaron Henry, F, 6-6, 210, Jr. – Athleticism allows him to guard any position as he improved his ball-handling and shooting in the off-season – (10.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Rocket Watts, G, 6-2, 185, So. – Multi-faceted talent whose energy and effort are capitalized on both ends of the floor – (9.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Gabe Brown, F, 6-7, 210, Jr. – Shoots the three and gets to the hole; workmanship fits Izzo’s system perfectly – (6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Returning Key Reserves:
Josh Langford, G, 6-5, 210, Gr. – Besieged with an ankle injury as he has endured a tough two years; looks ready to be a major contributor once again – (15.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg – 2018-19)
Malik Hall, F, 6-7, 215, So. – Shot 53.6 percent from the field while giving Izzo 15.9 minutes and starting nine games as a freshman – (4.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Marcus Bingham, Jr., F, 6-11, 225, Jr. – Will work into the front court in a more solid role – (3.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Thomas Kithier, F, 6-8, 230, Jr. – Improved player who works the boxes really well – (3.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
Foster Loyer, G, 6-0, 175, Jr. – A hard worker who will backup Watts on the point – (2.9 ppg, 0.5 rpg)
New To Sparty:
Joey Hauser, F, 6-9, 220, R-Jr. – Marquette transfer who will be an outstanding passer in this offense – (9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg – Marquette, 2018-19)
Mady Sissoko, C, 6-9, 235, Fr. – 4-Star talent whose physicality and size will at least give him minutes in a role in the post
A.J. Hoggard – G, 6-3, 220, Fr. – 4-Star – Strength and physicality going to the basket off the dribble will be a matchup issue for many opponents
Key Players Lost:
Cassius Winston, G, 6-1, 185 – (18.6 ppg, 5.9 apg)
Xavier Tillman, F, 6-8, 245 – To NBA Draft – (13.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg)
Coach Izzo recently joined me on the “Marching to Madness” college basketball podcast:
Ken Cross, the self-proclaimed “CEO of College Hoops,” has a plethora of experience over a 20-plus year period in both print and broadcast journalism as a free-lancer on the east coast and in the Charlotte, NC area, in particular. He started with the now defunct Sports Fan Radio Network in 1997 as a reporter, giving in-game updates and then facilitating postgame interviews with players on winning teams after games via cell phones. He has also worked in the same capacity for ESPN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio, Yahoo! Sports Radio over the same period.
In print and on the Internet, Cross continues to write for Lindy’s Sports Annuals as one of the primary writers for the College Basketball preview as well as a writer on the Lindy’s College Football preview staff. He also contributes frequently to the Lindy’s Sports website with articles on all sports throughout the year in a feature, editorial, and game summary mode. He also writes preview material for Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and covers Wake Forest basketball for Rivals.com.
Cross has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Appalachian State University and a Master’s in English and Education from Radford University in Virginia.