East Lansing — This week, Tom Izzo still wasn’t quite ready to move on to next season.
The first-round upset at the hands of No. 15 Middle Tennessee was still fresh on the Michigan State coach’s mind, and he admitted he was having a tough time.
“The highs and lows of this sport are incredible,” Izzo said. “But how you handle them, how you move forward. ... I’m not moving forward yet. I’m not gonna move forward until I get solely in my mind — I think I’m 99 percent comfortable with what happened — but until I’m 100, until I maybe watch the rest of the tournament, until I evaluate the film again, then I’m going to move forward.”
There’s plenty to think about when the full attention turns to 2016-17. Most of the initial focus will be on whether Deyonta Davis returns for his sophomore season or enters the NBA.
Whether Davis returns, the Spartans are bringing in the third-ranked recruiting class in the nation, and most, if not all, of those four players will jump right in to the rotation.
And, things get really interesting if No. 1 recruit Josh Jackson picks Michigan State over Arizona and Kansas. If he does, it creates quite the numbers crunch in terms of scholarships.
As it stands, it’s already tight.
If Davis returns, the Spartans have three open spots with four players signed. If Jackson jumps on board, that means Michigan State has two more players than available scholarships.
Davis leaving would open one spot, while there’s always the possibility redshirt freshman and former walk-on Kenny Goins gives up the scholarship he was awarded this season. But he’s become a valuable part of the rotation, which brings to light the possibility of transfers.
“A couple of guys are going to have to make some decisions,” Izzo said. “Some guys didn’t play as much and maybe want to play more because they were injured, then we’re going to talk about it. If they didn’t play well enough or work hard enough, then we’re going to have some decisions to make.”
Seniors-to-be Eron Harris and Gavin Schilling will be mainstays, as will junior Lourawls Nairn Jr. and sophomore Matt McQuaid. Marvin Clark should enter his junior season with a chance to play consistent minutes, while Alvin Ellis seems likely to stick around for his senior season, especially after making significant contributions late.
After that, just about anything could happen.
Javon Bess, who will be a junior, has battled foot injuries and saw his playing time diminish dramatically as the season progressed. And Kyle Ahrens, who opted not to redshirt while coming back from a leg injury, played sparingly as a true freshman.
“This day and age, I don’t look at kids transferring as a negative like I used to,” Izzo said. “Again, I want everybody to be happy. So that’ll be in the conversation. There will be a couple kids that will be on the bubble whether they think they should leave because they think they should play more minutes or want to do more things and that will be up front and that will be talked about and it already has been some.
“We’re all trying to find something negative about this team and even in that, if three guys transfer, it won’t be negative. How’s that for a crazy statement? It just means that we’re all on the same page. We all understand each other.”