|Michigan State hopes it can celebrate next season|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 07 April 2009 13:45|
The Spartans wanted to shake hands with the national champions and coach Tom Izzo didn't mind that his players witnessed the celebration.
``Let's sit here and wait for them because you should see what this looks like,'' Izzo recalled saying after getting routed by North Carolina on Monday night.
The Spartans are determined to get back to the title game next year.
With most of their players expected to return, they seem to have a shot.
``Absolutely this is going to motivate us,'' freshman Delvon Roe said. ``We're going to miss some seniors, but we're going to have a lot of guys back.
``If we put in the work that we all need to, we'll give ourselves a chance to get back here.''
o played his best at the end of his career to allow the program to keep boasting about a distinction.
Since Izzo became head coach in 1995, every player who has stayed four years has been on a Final Four team.
``That means everything to me and the rest of the seniors,'' Walton said.
Marquise Gray, who averaged less than 10 minutes a game, and seldom-used Idong Ibok are also out of eligibility.
The Spartans expect to have five of their top six scorers back next season and seven players from the 10-man rotation Izzo used this season.
Izzo isn't worried about whether Kalin Lucas skips his last two seasons to go pro, and the Big Ten player of the year wasn't interested in talking about the possibility.
``I'm not even thinking about that right now,'' Lucas said, walking up a steep ramp out of Ford Field. ``I just want to enjoy my teammates and all that we accomplished this season.''
Michigan State easily won its first Big Ten title since 2001, extended its NCAA tournament streak to 12 years and advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in 11 seasons.
No other team has made it to college basketball's showcase more frequently than the Spartans since 1999.
The program moved closer toward Izzo's goal of lifting the program to elite status.
``My only regret is we didn't have a better game for all the people who were there to see it.''
Walton agreed, but said the flop in the finals didn't spoil the experience of earning the right to play for a title just a 90-mile drive from campus in front of 72,000-plus people.
``Even though we didn't play our best, it was a blessing we got here,'' he said. ``Nobody thought we would even be in this position to be talking about playing for a national championship.''
The Spartans hope to do more than talk about it next season.
Lucas is expected to lead a talented and experienced team along with Raymar Morgan, whose senior season has a chance to be spectacular according to his coach.
``I do believe he's a player of the year candidate,'' Izzo said. ``It'll come down to how much he works on his ballhandling and jump shooting. Then, he's going to have to work on his mind and not let the game tear him down.''
Roe is counting on returning to the form he had as a prized recruit before two knee surgeries stunted his freshman season. He will get an opportunity to play a lot next season alongside Draymond Green, who went from possibly redshirting to contributing as a freshman this year.
Shooting guards Chris Allen and Durrell Summers, who averaged 8.5 points this season, both can be double-digit scorers if they can become more consistent as juniors.
o had a foot injury Monday, will be counted on to play more as a sophomore because of Walton's departure from the backcourt.
Tom Herzog, Michigan State's first 7-foot player in two decades, will need to be in the rotation next season as a redshirt junior because the team will lose a center and two frontcourt reserves.
``Herzog and some of our centers, we're going to have to do a heck of a job with them,'' Izzo said.
After the Spartans shook hands with the victorious Tar Heels, Izzo and three of his players walked into a news conference as ``One Shining Moment'' was blaring. As they answered questions, North Carolina's players could be heard shouting with joy as they returned to their locker room.
``It doesn't hurt,'' Lucas said later. ``We had a great year and we can all hold our head high.''