Michigan State A Rare NCAA Hoops Dark Horse In Tom Izzo’s 27th Season

Written By Drew Ellis on November 5, 2021

It’s not often that Michigan State basketball finds itself outside the top 25 rankings to preview a hoops campaign. But, that’s where the Spartans (barely) find themselves to open the 2021-22 college basketball season.

MSU isn’t far off, sitting first in the “others receiving votes” by both the AP and USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll. Still, the Spartans come into a new season with questions.

Can Tom Izzo still get his Spartans on the right path for another March Madness run?

Michigan State a top preview contender at sportsbooks

Although the Spartans aren’t ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2011, oddsmakers still respect MSU as a title contender this season.

According to BetMGM Sportsbook, Michigan State is listed at +3500 to win the NCAA Tournament in 2022. Only 18 teams have shorter odds than the Spartans. Gonzaga is the clear favorite at +600, while Michigan, UCLA and Villanova are knotted for second at +1200 each.

The Spartans are getting some action from those in Michigan sports betting circles, as they are getting 3.9% of the tickets for the national championship and 2.9% of the handle.

When it comes to the Big Ten title odds, Michigan State finds itself at +900, according to BetMGM. Michigan is the favorite at +250, while Purdue (+300), Ohio State (+450) and Illinois (+550) also sit in front of the Spartans.

Tom Izzo entering 27th season

Tom Izzo continues his run at Michigan State this year, entering his 27th season as leader of the program.

Izzo and Michigan State are coming off a frustrating 2020-21. Although the Spartans had some marquee wins, they still finished just 15-13 overall and 9-11 in the Big Ten. Their NCAA Tournament run ended before it began, with an 86-80 overtime loss to UCLA in the First Four.

It was the first time the Spartans didn’t advance to the round of 64 since 1997, Izzo’s second year with the program.

Still, Izzo is just a few years removed from his eighth Final Four appearance. He also has racked up 643 wins over his career with MSU.

Large roster departure for Spartans

Michigan State had massive roster turnover following the 2020-21 season.

Junior Aaron Henry elected to declare for the NBA Draft after leading the team with 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. However, Henry would go undrafted.

Joshua Langford, the team’s second-leading scorer, graduated and ended his lengthy college career.

Along with those two departures, MSU also saw contributors Rocket Watts, Thomas Kithier and Foster Loyer transfer from the program.

That leaves the Spartans with a lot of holes to fill. Izzo is going to have to rely heavily on returning veterans in Joey Hauser, Gabe Brown and Malik Hall.

Hauser was a transfer from Marquette, but underwhelmed in his first year with MSU. He averaged just 9.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Brown and Hall were named captains this season. Brown is a senior forward who averaged 7.2 points last season. Hall is a junior forward who put up 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest last year.

Brown led Michigan State in its 92-58 preview act, an exhibition win over Ferris State last week. He scored 19 points.

MSU will also need more from 7-foot center Marcus Bingham Jr. He was part of the Spartans’ starting lineup against Ferris State, but only averaged 11 minutes per game last year.

Will new faces step up for Michigan State?

With a lot of players leaving, MSU also has a lot of players coming in. The Spartans bring in three from the 2021 recruiting class, including Michigan natives Pierre Brooks and Jaden Akins.

Max Christie is the prized piece, a 5-star recruit who scored 17 points in the exhibition opener and was part of the starting lineup.

MSU hit the transfer portal hard, bringing in four players. Leading the way is Tyson Walker, a point guard from Northeastern. He was the CAA defensive player of the year last season, averaging 18.8 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Loaded schedule ahead for MSU

Never one to back down from a challenge, Michigan State kicks off the season on Nov. 9 with a clash against No. 3 Kansas as part of the Champions Classic.

The Spartans will also make a trip to Butler on Nov. 17 for the Gavitt Tipoff Games, while taking part in the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving weekend.

MSU draws Louisville at home for the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1.

The Spartans will have a Jan. 8 trip to Michigan circled, and then have a rough four-game stretch late in January to deal with in the Big Ten race.

That stretch starts with a trip to Wisconsin on Jan. 21. That is followed by a trip to Illinois on Jan. 25, a home rematch with Michigan on Jan. 29, then a road trip to Maryland on Feb. 1.

MSU also closes its season with five challenging games. That begins Feb. 19 at home with Illinois and is followed by a trip to Iowa (Feb. 22), a home game with Purdue (Feb. 26), a trip to Ohio State (March 3) and a finale at home with Maryland (March 6).

Photo by Al Goldis/AP
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis has lived in Michigan his whole life, and has been writing professionally for the last 21 years. Ellis has covered anything from youth baseball in mid-Michigan, a top-25 college football program, and pro sports in the Detroit area. Always keeping busy, Ellis also has over 10 years of experience in covering sports betting, handling all major sports.

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