Rumors of bending the rules are a pretty constant theme in college basketball recruiting. But according to one analyst, the fact that Michigan State's Tom Izzo isn't willing to bend those rules is the reason his team isn't as good this year as it has been in the past.
ESPN analyst and former coach Fran Fraschilla said Monday during the "College Sports Today" show on SiriusXM's College Sports Radio that this year's Michigan State team is struggling, in part, because of Izzo sticking to the rules.
"I coached for 23 years and cheating is not a victimless crime," Fraschilla said in response to a caller saying Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is being judged harshly in the wake of punishment handed down by the NCAA. "Every coach that cheats means another coach that doesn't cheat will get fired because he doesn't win enough games.
"When a coach gets caught cheating, they ought to throw the book at him. Because there are a whole lot of other coaches out there, and I'll give you one example: The reason Tom Izzo doesn't have a great team right now is because he has not, quite frankly; he has lost some guys, at times, to schools that he wasn't willing to break rules for. And coaches who don't cheat will get fired if they don't win, and that's part of the problem I have with the NCAA. They ought to throw the book at all these guys that cheat.
"I coached. I know what it's like to lose players to guys that break the rules. It's no fun."
Michigan State is the third seed in this week's Big Ten tournament, but at 21-10 and 12-6 in the conference, the Spartans have taken a step back after reaching the Elite Eight last season. Much of that is because of high-profile misses in recruiting the past two seasons.
In 2013, Jabari Parker chose Duke over Michigan State while the Spartans failed to land several top prospects in 2014, including Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Tyus Jones (Duke) and Tyler Ulis (Kentucky).
All but Jones are from the Chicago area, and Alexander is now, ironically, sitting out at Kansas while the NCAA investigates questions over his eligibility. He was believed to leaning heavily toward going to Michigan State, only to abruptly end all contact with the Spartans and commit to Kansas.
Not long after that, Izzo was at the Big Ten media day in October 2013 in Chicago and was asked about recruiting in the Windy City.
"I think there's always the same issues," he said. "But if there's good players, there's going to be a lot of coaches around. If there's a lot of coaches around there's going to be issues. I don't know if it's any different than anywhere else. … A lot of good players, a lot of coaches, a lot of coaches and good players. There's a lot of middlemen."
Michigan State has a top-15 class already signed for next season with the chance of improving it. Muskegon's Deyonta Davis, who leads the class, is a five-star big man that will play in the McDonald's All-American game. He'll be joined by four-star shooting guard Matt McQuaid of Duncanville, Texas, and shooting guard Kyle Ahrens of Versailles, Ohio. Michigan State is still in the running for five-star forward Caleb Swanigan of Fort Wayne, Ind., another All-American who ranks among the top 10 players in the nation.