One of the great aspects of being associated with the SBNation network is the tremendous amount of quality blogs that we have the opportunity to use as resources. As part of our season preview segment, we are trying to check in and get opinions from the blogs affiliated with some of the top schools on the Gonzaga schedule. As part of the Michigan St. preview that went up last week, we decided to check in with The Only Colors to get their take on what this game will mean to Michigan St., and just how highly they think of the team Tom Izzo has. We would like to thank The Only Colors for taking the time to answer our questions, and we look forward to checking back in with them as November gets closer.
Slipper Stll Fits: With the surprising run to the Championship game last season, and a majority of the key contributors returning, this team clearly has high expectations heading into the season. Do you think that the deep tournament run has created unfair expectations for this group, or is this team a national championship contender?
The Only Colors: Last season went as well as anyone could have dreamed going into it: An outright Big Ten championship to end a seven-year conference title drought and an NCAA Tournament run all the way to the national championship game in our own back yard. So I think expectations have to be scaled back at least a bit.
I guess you have to say they're national championship contenders, given that they bring as much back as anyone this side of Kansas. But I'm going to reserve judgment until we see how the team fits together on the court. Good Tom Izzo-coached teams are built on depth and experience, and Travis Walton (defense) and Goran Suton (rebounding) were the kind of guys that make a Tom Izzo team go. Replacing them will be a challenge. I'm taking a cautious approach even within the Big Ten, where I expect the competition will be even tougher this season.
Slipper Still Fits: In Kalin Lucas, Michigan St. has one of the elite point guards in the country. What makes Lucas so dangerous, and where do you think he needs to improve to take his game to the next level?
The Only Colors: Lucas has a rare blend of speed and strength. He can beat you on the fast break, and he can pull up in the lane, take a hit, and convert the big basket. The two areas Lucas can improve in are (1) distributing the ball to other scorers more consistently and (2) becoming more of a factor defensively (something that will be required with Walton's graduation).
Slipper Still Fits: While Lucas is regarded as one of the premier players in the country, Delvon Roe and his health is a very important factor to the success of the team. What have the reports been for Roe, and has he made the jump that many think he is capable of to an elite player?
The Only Colors: Roe's knees are reportedly back to 100% and there's every reason to think he'll be a major force this season. Last year, he was able to focus primarily on rebounding and defense. But he showed flashes of scoring ability, particularly in getting to the free throw line with frequency. With the basketball intelligence he showed as a freshman, I think he could end up being right there in the discussion for the greatest big man of the Tom Izzo era when his career at MSU finishes up.
Slipper Still Fits: As he typically does, Tom Izzo brought in another tough and talented recruiting class. Of the newcomers, which should we expect to see playing time early in the season? Will any of the newcomers be key contributors to the rotation?
The Only Colors: The two incoming freshman are both big men: 6'10", 235-pound Garrick Sherman and 6'9", 275-pound Derrick Nix. Both come in as solid, but not elite, high school prospects. At least one of the two of them will need to step in and play 10-15 minutes behind Roe and Draymond Green. Another guy who's not technically a newcomer, but is a bit of an unknown, is redshirt junior Tom Herzog. Herzog is a 7-footer who's had a hard time putting on weight. We're hoping he becomes a useful contributor this season, though.
Slipper Still Fits: What perception does Gonzaga with Michigan St. fans? Obviously, the game from the Maui Invitational was a classic, but how is the Gonzaga program viewed?
The Only Colors: To me, Gonzaga is one of the great success stories of contemporary college sports. A team with decidedly mid-major resources that has managed to become a household name among even casual college basketball fans (evidence: my mom know who they are). There aren't that many teams Tom Izzo can schedule for a game at the Breslin Center during the nonconference season that will get the Spartan fan base buzzing. Gonzaga is one of them.