MSU is still a team trying to figure things out, and they probably will be for quite a while. They are currently running an 11 man rotation while Izzo decides what will work. This team was going to be a very different team than last season with the loss of Valentine, Forbes, Davis, and Costello, but injuries have thrown Izzo another curveball. While he lost size from last year, he had 2 talented freshman in Bridges and Ward coming in who would fill the minutes. With Shilling, and Goins coming back and the transfer Carter, Izzo had 5 bigs to mix and match while playing a lot of 3 guard line ups too. Then Shilling and Carter got hurt, and it's hard to say if either will play anytime soon or at all this season. MSU is now very small.
Bridges is the gem of the recruiting class and is likely a one and done guy. He has great size (6'7 230lbs) and athleticism for a 18 year old kid, and can shoot and handle the ball. If not for the injuries, Izzo would have loved to play him at the 3 and move him to the 4 in 3 guard lineups. Instead he is playing the 4 next to an undersized, and inexperienced Goins. Goins gives them little on offense, but he's a solid rebounder. It's just weird to see an MSU team with no starter over 6'7. Ward gives them size and scoring off the bench. The freshman is a load inside and is very active on the offensive end. He is averaging 10 ppg in under 15 mpg, and gets to the free throw line regularly. He uses that size to rebound well, but much like Issac Haas he just can't move that size well enough to stay out of foul trouble. Izzo has also been forced to play Ahrens and Van Dyk in the front court- 2 guys that would not be playing at all if not for injuries.
If the frontcourt seems like a mess, the backcourt is worse. At least the frontcourt has 2 talented freshman that are contributing right now. The backcourt has a mix of upperclassmen who just aren't that good, and underclassmen who aren't quite ready to be major contributors. Harris is the only returning starter from last year and while he was effective as the 3rd perimeter option behind Valentine and Forbes, he has not been effective as the lead dog. Nairn Jr has reclaimed his role as starting point guard as he leads the transition offense, but he is non-existent in the half court. In 7 games he has only 22 FG attempts and 3 free throw attempts. When you already have an offensive void with Goins, it's very hard to win with a second in the starting lineup. When the other senior Ellis III was a freshman, I thought he was an athletic kid that wasn't ready to give them more than 5-6 minutes of mediocre backup minutes. As a senior he is about the same.
There is hope for the backcourt. There are 3 highly rated recruits that all look like they will be very good players. They may improve enough by the end of the year to be getting major minutes, I just don't know if Izzo has enough time to win with them this year. McQuaid is a true sophomore shooter. In limited minutes as a freshman he shot 41% from deep. This year he has taken 31 of 36 attempts from 3. His game is limited at this point, but his shooting will space the floor for Ward and Bridges inside. Winston is the PG and he can score and create, but like most young guards his shooting needs work and he turns the ball over too much. Langford is the 2 guard who should be a great scorer, but he fouls too much and needs to be better handling the ball.
So Izzo has early season injury problems, talented players that aren't meshing, and MSU is struggling against a non-conference schedule that is among the most difficult in the nation. Sound familiar? In a normal year I would say that Izzo will find a way and finish in the top 3, like MSU always does. This year, I'm not convinced. This is still a team with a probable top 10 NBA draft pick, and some other good players, so the floor is only so low with MSU, but I think this team is closer to Michigan and OSU than it is to Indiana, Purdue and UW. I think the freshman play more and more as the season goes on, and as always this team is way better in March than in November. Prediction 11-7.