September 14, 2012 in Division I
As part of an excellent series he’s doing for ESPN.com examining ‘three things’ about 20 different college basketball teams in 20 days, Eamonn Brennan looked at the challenge Michigan State has in replacing both Draymond Green‘s incredible production and perhaps more incredible leadership from last season:
Replacing Green’s production is the first challenge, and it won’t be easy, but like Marquette, Michigan State doesn’t have to (and definitely shouldn’t) hope to replace what Green did on the floor with any one player. Instead, it will require a combination of efforts, because Green did so much: Scoring, rebounding, ballhandling, passing out of the high post — you name it, Green did it. It’s a fair bet to assume Michigan State will be able to replace Green’s scoring; the Spartans have a host of productive players (both returning and arriving) to throw at the problem. Rebounding could be a different story. Green, who posted a 28.5 percent defensive rebounding rate (good for seventh best in the country) was a beast on the defensive glass last season, a one-man stopgap against extra offensive possessions. The next-best defensive rebounder on the team, center Adreian Payne, posted a 16.9 percent rate, and no one else broke the 13 percent mark.
Anyway, I could go on for dozens of paragraphs about all the things Green did for the Spartans; I could spend thousands of words breaking down KenPom.com numbers and Synergy stats. None of it would get to the biggest loss in Green’s departure: leadership. Few players have earned coach Tom Izzo’s enduring respect like Green; few players have embodied the time-tested coach-on-the-floor role like the man they call Day Day. These sorts of nebulous qualities can be overrated in sports, college hoops included, but in Green’s case, the value of his sheer presence is almost impossible to overstate.
Because Green was such a huge part of Michigan State’s identity last season, I’m really intrigued to see what the team looks like on the court this season. There are ample opportunities for talented players at several positions to have breakout seasons, and I honestly have no idea which of those players will emerge and reshape MSU basketball this season.